CLIN­TON KICK­OFF:

Pres­i­den­tial hope­ful por­trays self as a fighter for the mid­dle class.

Los Angeles Times - - FRONT PAGE - By Cath­leen Decker cath­leen.decker @la­times.com Twit­ter: @cath­leen­decker For more on pol­i­tics, go to la­times.com/decker.

Hil­lary Rod­ham Clin­ton will never win the pres­i­dency on the sheer force of lofty rhetoric, as her an­nounce­ment speech demon­strated Satur­day.

But if she does win the White House, it will be be­cause she ac­com­plished what her speech set out to do: har­ness the de­mo­graphic shifts afoot in the coun­try and deepen vot­ers’ un­der­stand­ing of the best known woman in the­world.

Clin­ton high­lighted a laun­dry list of pro­pos­als at­trac­tive to as­cen­dant vot­ing groups that formed the po­lit­i­cal base for fel­low Demo­crat Barack Obama and be­gan to show their strength un­der her hus­band, Bill Clin­ton. She of­fered mul­ti­ple in­di­ca­tions that she­was pre­pared to fight for those seek­ing a foothold, even if that con­tra­dicted her si­mul­ta­ne­ous pledge to usher in a new and more col­lab­o­ra­tive po­lit­i­cal fu­ture for the coun­try.

De­liv­ered in a park in New York hon­or­ing Franklin D. Roo­sevelt, Clin­ton’s speech was the first big event of her pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, which the can­di­date has thus far spent fundrais­ing and mak­ing small if tele­genic drop-bys with peo­ple in key elec­toral states.

She vowed Satur­day to sketch the de­tails about her pol­icy plat­form soon, but it was clear from what she did say that most of it will echo the de­sires of the last two Demo­cratic pres­i­dents. Through­out, there­was no mis­tak­ing the im­por­tance that women, the young and mi­nor­ity vot­ers— the lat­ter two be­ing groups that largely eluded her in her 2008 pres­i­den­tial bid— play in her po­lit­i­cal fu­ture.

In one pas­sage she se­quen­tially took on Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial con­tenders on the is­sues of cli­mate change, in­equal­ity, health­care, abor­tion and con­tra­cep­tive rights, im­mi­gra­tion and gay rights. Those are thresh­old is­sues for many of the vot­ers whose sup­port Clin­ton is seek­ing, and they are ar­eas in which the Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates’ po­si­tions are far more con­ser­va­tive than the na­tion’s at large.

Clin­ton es­sen­tially sketched the na­tion’s pol­i­tics as di­vided be­tween aging con­ser­va­tive vot­ers in the GOP’s camp, and ev­ery­one else— the swelling ma­jor­ity of Amer­ica, as­sum­ing they vote— in hers.

“Ask many of th­ese can­di­dates about cli­mate change, one of the defin­ing threats of our time, and they’ll say, ‘I’m not a sci­en­tist.’ Well, then, why don’t they start lis­ten­ing to those who are?

“They pledge to wipe out tough rules on Wall Street, rather than rein in the banks that are still too risky, court­ing fu­ture fail­ures in a case that can only be con­sid­ered mass am­ne­sia.

“They want to take away health in­sur­ance from more than16 mil­lion Amer­i­cans with­out of­fer­ing any cred­i­ble al­ter­na­tive. They shame and blame women, rather than re­spect our right to make our own re­pro­duc­tive health de­ci­sions.

“They want to put im­mi­grants, whowork hard and pay taxes, at risk of de­por­ta­tion. And they turn their backs on gay peo­ple who love each other.”

Her reach for his­tory was a re­cur­rent theme aswell.

“I will be the youngest woman pres­i­dent in the his­tory of the United States,” she noted in a jok­ing ref­er­ence to howthe pres­i­dency had aged her pre­de­ces­sors.

Part of Clin­ton’s chal­lenge through 2016 will be to nav­i­gate Obama’s pos­i­tives and neg­a­tives. The pres­i­dent, at his heights, in­spired far more pas­sion in his fol­low­ers than Clin­ton has in hers, but he also drew an­tag­o­nists with a fierce­ness that Clin­ton would like to avoid. On Satur­day, she at­tempted to cor­ral Obama’s vot­ers while ac­knowl­edg­ing the short­com­ings of his ten­ure.

“So we’re stand­ing again, butwe all know we’re not yet run­ning the­way Amer­ica should,” she said. “You see cor­po­ra­tions mak­ing record prof­its, with CEOs mak­ing record pay, but your pay­checks have barely budged.

“While many of you are work­ing mul­ti­ple jobs to make ends meet, you see the top 25 hedge fund man­agers mak­ing more than all of Amer­ica’s kinder­garten teach­ers com­bined. And, of­ten pay­ing a lower tax rate. So, you have to won­der: ‘When does my hard work pay off? When doesmy fam­ily get ahead? When?’”

That­was a re­frain familiar to her hus­band’s1992 cam­paign, which rested on the no­tion that hewould stand up for Amer­i­cans who “work hard and play by the rules.” But as­much as she hopes to ben­e­fit from pos­i­tive views of his years in of­fice, she made clear that she’s rest­ing on her own lau­rels.

In Satur­day’s telling, she was the grand­daugh­ter of a man who worked for 50 years in a Penn­syl­va­nia lace mill, the daugh­ter of a small busi­ness­man and of a mother who had been aban­doned as a child.

Clin­ton re­counted her life, from young at­tor­ney to se­na­tor from New York. Her years as first lady, a fraught pe­riod per­son­ally and pro­fes­sion­ally, were skipped over. Sim­i­larly, her ter­mas sec­re­tary of State re­ceived lit­tle at­ten­tion; for­eign pol­icy, a sub­ject of in­tense in­ter­est to Repub­li­can can­di­dates, didn’t en­ter into the speech un­til half an hour into her 45-minute re­marks. Ab­sent pol­icy specifics, the State Depart­ment job served sim­ply as fur­ther ev­i­dence of tough­ness.

“I’ve stood up to ad­ver­saries like [Vladimir] Putin and re­in­forced al­lies like Is­rael. Iwas in the Sit­u­a­tion Room on the daywe got Bin Laden,” she said. “But, I know— I know we have to be smart aswell as strong.”

Clin­ton’s public life has been marked by great heights and per­ilous lows. Her pledge to serve as pres­i­dent on be­half of “ev­ery­one who’s ever been knocked down, but re­fused to be knocked out” seemed to hold some res­o­nance.

She has been re­spected for her per­sonal tenac­ity and re­buked for what oc­ca­sion­ally has ap­peared to be a brittle public per­sona. To some ex­tent on Satur­day, she seemed to be say­ing— par­tic­u­larly to women who may feel more sym­pa­thetic to her— that she hopes the coun­try sim­ply takes her as she is.

JohnMoore Getty Images

HIL­LARY ROD­HAM CLIN­TON noted Satur­day that she is the grand­daugh­ter of a lace mill worker and daugh­ter of a woman who was aban­doned as a child.

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