Can Hillary focus on the campaign with the Benghazi hearing behind her?

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Now that the Benghazi hearing is behind her, Hillary Clinton can rejoice in the fact that she delivered a strong performance and did what she had to do in what was a purely partisan presidential election-season exercise designed to bring her down.

And as for the Republicans, they may very well regret they ever decided to go down this route.

If the purpose of the Thursday hearing was to drive a wedge between Clinton — now the Democratic frontrunner for president — and the Democrats in order to hurt her chances in the 2016 election, the Republicans sorely failed. You know things are bad when, as Mark Thompson of SiriusXM’s “Make It Plain” noted during his live coverage, Fox News, the Republican network, was no longer airing the hearing Thursday evening:

Surely, many Republicans want to forget this hearing, which was doomed to failure, beginning with Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), the chair of the committee. Direct from central casting as the role of prosecutor from a small, backwater Jim Crow town, his red hot anger running out the gate proved that this was a partisan circus.

The calm questioning of Rep. Susan Brooks (R-Ind.), a former federal prosecutor, would have made her a better choice for chair. Throughout the daylong questioning, the Republicans suggested that as secretary of state, Clinton somehow was disengaged with Libya and that she interfered with security at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi in a manner that cost the lives of four Americans, including a U.S. ambassador. And the GOP members of the committee were obsessed with Sidney Blumenthal, a Clinton friend, confidant and unofficial adviser who, the Republicans would argue, was Clinton’s key adviser on Libya, had undue influence with Clinton and had more pull with the secretary than Ambassador Christopher Stevens. Rep. Mike Pompeo of Kansas even suggested that State Department officials had secret meetings with Al Qaeda, fueling the perception that the whole show was run by rabid conspiracy theorists.

To their credit, Democrats on the committee earned their keep. Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Mary.) was Clinton’s biggest supporter, getting into a shouting match with Gowdy.  “Clearly, it is possible to conduct a serious, bipartisan investigation,” Cummings said. “What is impossible is for any reasonable person to continue denying that Republicans are squandering millions of taxpayer dollars on this abusive effort to derail Secretary Clinton’s presidential campaign.”

“As we all know, Rep. Kevin McCarthy — Speaker Boehner’s second-in-command and the Chairman’s close friend — admitted that they established the Select Committee to drive down Secretary Clinton’s poll numbers,” Cummings added. “Since January, Republicans have canceled every single hearing on our schedule for the entire year — except for this one with Secretary Clinton. They also canceled numerous interviews that they had planned with Defense Department and CIA officials,” he said.

“I think the core theory is this … that you deliberately interfered with security in Benghazi and that resulted in people dying. I think that is the case they want to make,” said Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA). Schiff noted that what led to Clinton’s appearance before the committee was the Stop Hillary PAC that delivered 264,000 signatures to have her come before committee.

Throughout the 11-hour spectacle, Clinton was calm but firm and did not lose her cool, as her adversaries hoped to break her down and find a smoking gun that never materialized. “I would imagine I have thought more about what happened than all of you put together,” she said. “I have lost more sleep than all of you put together. I have been wracking my brain about what more could have been done or should have been done.”

Others weighed in on social media:

https://twitter.com/LoganJames/status/657235993658040322

Going into the hearing, we knew the House Select Committee on Benghazi was designed to hurt Clinton, as House majority leader Kevin McCarthy admitted. Meanwhile, the public is not buying whatever it was the Benghazi committee was trying to sell. According to a CNN/ORC poll, 72 percent of Americans believe the House Select Committee on Benghazi is politically motivated, as opposed to a mere 23 percent who think the investigation was objective.

But what should really raise eyebrows from the poll is that 49 percent of Republicans said the panel was designed to make Hilary look bad and hurt her presidential chances. 85 percent of Democrats and 75 percent of independents agree — which means not a whole lot of people saw this as anything but the political spectacle it was.

This was a good week for Hillary, with Vice President Joe Biden announcing he would not run for the White House. Meanwhile, the GOP had a terrible week, with a multimillion-dollar circus that went nowhere, and Paul Ryan, the reluctant speaker-to-be, stepping in to attempt to fix a divided party of people who hate government and hate governing even more.

The Republicans must be working for the Clinton campaign. Two things are certain: Hillary Clinton slept well after those House proceedings, and we will never hear about Benghazi ever again.

Follow David A. Love on Twitter @davidalove