Hillary Clinton criticises 'divisive' politics that led to deadlock

Former secretary of state calls for return to 'common sense' in wake of budget deadlock

PUBLISHED : Monday, 21 October, 2013, 4:09am
UPDATED : Monday, 21 October, 2013, 4:09am

Hillary Rodham Clinton has urged Virginia voters to reject the type of "divisive politics" epitomised by this month's budget deadlock, in her first campaign-trail appearance since stepping down as US secretary of state.

Speaking at a rally in support of family friend Terry McAuliffe, who is running for governor in the November 5 election, Clinton, 65, said Virginia must lead a return to "common sense", as she alluded to the stalemate over fiscal policy that partially shut the US government for 16 days.

"When politicians choose scorched earth over common ground, when they operate in what I call the 'evidence-free zone', with ideology trumping everything else, we've seen that families ... across the country have felt the consequences," Clinton told the crowd in Falls Church, a suburb of Washington.

Clinton's 18-minute public appearance for McAuliffe, 56, who served as campaign chairman of her unsuccessful 2008 presidential bid, foreshadows many such requests she's likely to receive as she weighs a potential 2016 White House bid.

"I've been out of politics for a few years now," she told a crowd that included many past and current volunteers for Democratic candidates, some wearing "Ready for Hillary" buttons.

"I've had a chance to think a lot about what makes our country so great, what kind of leadership is required to keep it great," she said.

Lawmakers last week voted to pass legislation permitting the US to pay its debts, benefits and salaries, shifting the focus to a new series of deadlines that set up more rounds of political conflict over taxes and spending on programmes including Social Security and Medicare.

The McAuliffe campaign is hitting hard at the Republican nominee, state Attorney General Ken Cuccinellli, depicting him as an extremist on birth control, abortion and divorce.

Clinton, an abortions rights advocate, said: "The whole country is watching to see if the rights of women and girls will be respected, especially over our own bodies and our health care."

Her popularity with women stems in part from the prospect that she could make history in 2016 by being elected the first female US president.

Among Democrats, 61 per cent say they would vote for Clinton if the primaries were held now, according to a Quinnipiac University national poll conducted last month.

Within that group, 66 per cent of women and 54 per cent of men say they would back Clinton

Virginia, once a Republican stronghold, has become a swing state. President Barack Obama won the state in 2008 and 2012.