APTOPIX DEM 2016 Clinton
APTOPIX DEM 2016 Clinton

CAPITOL HILL - It would be hard to find anyone in Washington who has known Hillary Clinton, America's first female presumptive presidential nominee, longer than Senator Richard Blumenthal. The Connecticut Democrat was Clinton's classmate — as well as that of former president Bill Clinton — at Yale Law School in the early 1970s.

"Everyone had the sense that Bill Clinton was going to be in politics," Blumenthal told VOA, "[but] not so much Hillary, because she was different [in] personality and interests — in many ways more serious than most of us in law school."

Blumenthal declined to provide any anecdotes about either Clinton at Yale, but has said in the past that Hillary Clinton was a better student than he or her husband-to-be. The senator said the strengths she exhibits today were evident more than 40 years ago.

"What Hillary Clinton has, more than even her extraordinary intelligence and intellectual insight, is a sense of judgment and history and compassion for every individual," Blumenthal said.

FILE - Then-Democratic presidential hopeful, Sen.
FILE - Then-Democratic presidential hopeful, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., waves while taking the stage with then-Connecticut Atty. Gen. Richard Blumenthal during a rally in Hartford, Connecticut, Jan. 28, 2008.

"It is one of the more exciting days in my career in public service to see my very good friend of Yale Law School class of 1973 become the presumptive nominee. But there is a lot of work ahead to make her the first woman president, which I hope will happen," he added.

Marking the milestone

Lawmakers of both political parties said Tuesday that America is making history by nominating a woman to be president. Beyond that, perceptions differed.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (2013 photo)
FILE - Sen. Lindsey Graham

"It's a milestone in American history. Congratulations to Hillary," said Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. "I don't dislike her as a person. I think she'd be a third term of Barack Obama, and I can't support her for president ... The first female president, I hope, will be a Republican."

"Anytime we have people in our country break through glass ceilings, it's something to be celebrated," said Republican Senator John Thune of South Dakota. "I just hope she's not the next president."

At first, Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri told VOA she'd rather not comment while votes were being cast in Tuesday's final state primary elections.

"I think it would be better to wait and get emotional about this after the polls close tonight," she said.

Seconds later, her enthusiasm won out.

FILE - Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., questions wit
FILE - Sen. Claire McCaskill

"For women who have fought in the trenches for many, many years to have our voices heard, to have a woman leading a ticket is a big deal," McCaskill said, adding that a female presidential nominee is long overdue. "It's been 100 years since we [women] got the vote."

Standing nearby, Democrat Chuck Schumer of New York chimed in.

"Watching her [Clinton] this morning on TV, I got misty-eyed. I did," Schumer said. "It's historic."

"This is a big deal," McCaskill added for emphasis.

Not over yet

On the other side of the Capitol, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi endorsed Clinton, a former secretary of state, over challenger Bernie Sanders, a senator from Vermont.

While expressing excitement over the prospect of Hillary Clinton as president, appearing on ABC's Good Morning America program, Pelosi noted that the Democratic nominating process has not concluded.

"It's not over till it's over," Pelosi said.

Sanders has challenged news media assessments that Clinton has clinched the nomination and promised to take the battle to the Democratic National Convention next month.

"His [Sanders'] decision about his course is for him to make," Blumenthal said of his Senate colleague. "But I think he can help us come together as a party by what he does now. I think he'll do the right thing in seeking to defeat [presumptive Republican presidential nominee] Donald Trump."