FALLS CHURCH, Virginia (AP) — Hillary Rodham Clinton took part Saturday in her first public political event since departing the administration of President Barack Obama, rallying supporters of Virginia's Democratic gubernatorial candidate.

While Saturday's event aimed to energize voters for Terry McAuliffe, it evoked Clinton's lengthy bid in 2008 to become the first woman to win the White House. She lost the Democratic nomination that year to Obama, who later appointed her secretary of state.

The crowd broke into chants of "Hillary" as McAuliffe introduced her, and Clinton confessed that she had "been out of politics for a few years now."

Democrats consider Clinton to be the party's leading contender to Obama if she decides to run for president again in 2016.

Clinton noted the end of the 16-day partial government shutdown, which affected many Virginians. More than 800,000 government workers were furloughed while Democrats and Republicans in Congress engaged in a partisan brawl over funding the country's new health care program, financing the government and raising the debt ceiling before reaching an eleventh hour compromise.

Clinton said the nation was watching the Virginia race to see whether voters "lead the way of turning from divisive politics, getting back to commonsense and common ground."

Independent polls show McAuliffe has built a lead over Republican Ken Cuccinelli, a staunch social conservative, with more than two weeks until the Nov. 5 election, helped by an advantage among women and voters in northern Virginia. Both blocs were crucial to Obama's victories in Virginia during his 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns.

Clinton said the recent shutdown was an example "of the wrong kind of leadership, when politicians choose scorched earth over common ground."

The former secretary of state has largely avoided politics this year, raising money at private fundraisers for McAuliffe and one scheduled Monday for the New York City mayoral campaign of Bill de Blasio, a former campaign aide. McAuliffe was a top fundraiser for the campaigns of both former President Bill Clinton and Mrs. Clinton and later served as chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

When Clinton told the audience that her time traveling the globe as Secretary of State had allowed her to think about "what makes our country so great, what kind of leadership is required to keep it great," a man in the audience shouted, "Yours!"

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