Eighteen months after leaving her day job at the U.S. Senate to seek the presidency, Sen. Hillary Clinton returned to work Tuesday as the junior senator from New York.
A large crowd of mostly interns and Senate staffers broke into applause as a broadly smiling Clinton climbed out of a big black sport utility vehicle and strode purposefully toward the Capitol. As she made her way to the Capitol steps, she stopped to greet well-wishers as if she were still working the campaign rope lines.
"Are you having a good experience?" she asked. "I had a wonderful experience a long time ago," she said to laughter. "It was really worth doing."
She might have been talking about the primary race she just lost, but Clinton was evidently referring to her work as a congressional intern.
After lunching behind closed doors with her fellow Democratic senators, Clinton was asked by a reporter what her role would now be in the Senate:
"My role is to be the very best senator I can be and to represent the greatest state in our country," she said.
Clinton said that she returned from the campaign trail with even greater awareness of what remains to be done in Washington.
"It won't surprise you to hear me say that I think the Democratic Party offers the best hope for solving the problems we face," she said. "And that's why we're going to work very hard to elect Sen. (Barack) Obama our president, and we're going to work very hard to add to our numbers here in the Senate."
Asked if she would now like to be Obama's running mate, Clinton replied: "It is not something that I think about. This is totally Sen. Obama's decision, and that's the way it should be."