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Clinton touts shared prosperity in campaign kick-off speech

Hillary Clinton held an official launch for her 2016 presidential campaign with a rally and speech on Roosevelt Island in New York City on Saturday. For more analysis on the Clinton speech and campaign, NewsHour’s Political Director Lisa Desjardins joins Hari Sreenivasan from Washington.

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  • HARI SREENIVASAN, PBS NEWSHOUR ANCHOR:

    Now, more about Hillary Clinton's major address today, and the state of the 2016 presidential campaign.

    Joining me to help analyze Clinton's speech today is Lisa Desjardins, the NEWSHOUR's political director.

    So, candidates make a lot of speeches. Why did this one — why was this one so important for the Clinton folks to have this kind of visibility?

  • LISA DESJARDINS, NEWSHOUR’S POLITICAL DIRECTOR:

    This was Hillary Clinton answering the "why is she running" question. Up until now, she tried to prove to people "I'm accessible, I'm warm, I'm relatable", she's done all these small events all over the country with a few people.

    Now, she has to prove that there's a reason for her to run. This was what she's trying to do today. And it was a broad philosophical speech but she also had a lot of specifics. Really her campaign threw everything they had, I think, into this speech.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    OK. And she also talked a bit about her mom, more so than we remember her talking about it during the last campaign.

  • LISA DESJARDINS:

    Yes. It is interesting. I think she's trying to bring in a human factor and she's trying to say, I'm not the only one that you can look to as a model. I look to my own mother.

    And she used her mother's story. Her mother was forced out of her house — she didn't go into details there — when she was young, 14 years old, made her way as a maid, educated and had Hillary Clinton.

    And as Secretary Clinton said today in her speech, her mom raised her to say, someone should believe in you. You get a chance — you get your own chances but it helps when you have someone who believes in you.

    And what Hillary Clinton was using that as a device today was to say I believe in America, I believe especially in workers, low-paid workers, I believe in women's rights. And she's using it as metaphor for what she thinks her leadership role should be.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    So, there were a couple of new polls out this week that Republicans are citing, saying that fewer than half of the Americans believe Hillary Clinton to be honest or trustworthy. How does that play into this new chapter of her presentation?

  • LISA DESJARDINS:

    It was interesting. I didn't hear her directly head on address the trust issue. Instead what they decided to do was play to her strong points, which is her experience, decisiveness, a lot of leadership qualities. Three different times, Hari, she came back to her bio, what she's done in different areas to sort of prove this is her time.

    And interestingly enough, she did not try to separate herself from President Obama, he himself not doing so well in the polls over the last year. Instead, two different times, she sort of tied herself to President Obama. My reading of it is she's going for those Obama voters. She's going for that core Democratic voter who loved her husband, likes her, and also the president.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    So, there's a lot of core Democratic voters who are in sort of Bernie Sanders/Elizabeth Sanders wing of the party. How much is that influencing what she is saying?

  • LISA DESJARDINS:

    You could hear it today for sure. But her main theme, if you had to pick just one, was the idea of inequality, especially inequality in wages and to some degree, inequality in women's rights, but mostly about wages. She mentioned many specific times of workers, talked about nurses working overnight, talk about low-paid teachers, talked about waitresses.

    She was hitting these sorts of groups of people who feel they're not getting maybe a fair share. And also went after Republicans for, in her words, helping the fat cats in Wall Street. And also specifically mentioned the Supreme Court — specifically mentioned that she wants to overturn Citizens United. She sees that as a way that the rich are getting richer.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    And that's just the struggle within her own party, the philosophical.

  • LISA DESJARDINS:

    Right.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    But there's the other party, the Republicans who — I think Jeb Bush is set to announce on Monday. So, this is an incredibly crowded field already.

    So, she is really going up against an entire gang of opponents.

  • LISA DESJARDINS:

    You know, I think that's right. And I think what she's trying to do today was to cover a lot of bases. She didn't just talk about inequality, though that kind of stuck out to me. She also hit on climate change. She hit a huge number of issues today.

    And I think the danger that Hillary Clinton has from this speech today, as much as she's included a broad philosophy, was that she tried to do so many things, that walking away I asked people, what was the main message you got from that? And a lot of the voters who support her couldn't pick one thing.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    So, where does the Republican field stand now?

  • LISA DESJARDINS:

    Well, I think Jeb Bush has had a rough couple of weeks. We've seen a shake up in his campaign staff.

    But to be honest, Hari, I think all of this is kind of just in the atmosphere — we don't really know right now where the Republican voters are, though I think Scott Walker is still rising, still very strong. Marco Rubio also very strong among Republican voters.

    But there's so much to be shaken out and I think very important for Jeb Bush to be strong on Monday, because frankly his appearances, his speeches as he's been trying to have this roll out had not been his strongest, and I think his campaign is looking to have a very big moment on Monday.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    All right. NewsHour's political director, Lisa Desjardins — thanks so much for joining us.

  • LISA DESJARDINS:

    Oh, my pleasure to be here in New York with you.

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