Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton is casting herself as the ultimate insider at the same time political outsiders are dominating the Republican field.
Hillary Clinton, a former first lady, senator and secretary of state campaigned in New Hampshire Monday with an array of reminders of her decades-long membership in the nation’s political power structure. As she filed her official candidacy in the state’s storied first-in-the-nation primary, Clinton reminisced about the previous three times she’d been present for that ritual: twice in the 1990s when her husband, former President Bill Clinton, ran for election and re-election, and once for her own first presidential run, in 2007.
Later Monday, she touted her longtime relationship with the League of Conservation Voters, a leading environmental group which endorsed her. And promising to continue President Barack Obama’s work on climate change, Clinton cast herself as her party’s liberal standard-bearer.
Along the way, Clinton took an implicit swipe at her chief rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders- a self-described democratic socialist who is challenging her for the nomination as a Democrat.
”Well, I’m a Democrat. I just signed papers saying I’m a Democrat. He has to speak for himself,” said Clinton, answering a question about her differences with Sanders. ”I will put forth my position. If there’s a contrast, there’s a contrast. I’m just proud to be a Democrat and I’m proud that I’ve worked so hard for the Democratic Party.”
Sanders was elected to the Senate from Vermont as an independent, but caucuses with the Democratic minority.
The images reflected a strategic choice by her campaign: In a year in which outsiders – real estate mogul Donald Trump and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson – are surging in the Republican field, Clinton is opting instead to highlight her government and political experience and vowing to continue Obama’s work.
She described herself as a ”proud Democrat” who would protect Obama’s agenda and prevent Republicans from dismantling his signature health care reform law and guard against tax breaks that would benefit the wealthy.
Reprising a line that has become a crowd favorite, Clinton said that Obama hasn’t received the ”credit he deserves” for helping the U.S. emerge from a deep recession – and made a passing reference to the economic mantra of her husband, the former president, whose come-from-behind second-place finish in New Hampshire propelled his candidacy in 1992.
”This election is still going to be about the economy, right? That’s what it was about when my husband ran back in `92 in New Hampshire,” she said. ”That’s what it’s still about.”
Clinton later joined with environmentalists in Nashua, where she credited Obama’s decision last week to reject the Keystone XL pipeline and recent decisions to cancel lease sales in the Arctic. ”I really applaud the president because we’ve had a few good weeks for the climate,” she said.
Sanders and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, who are challenging Clinton for the nomination, have questioned her commitment to environmental causes, noting her reluctance to come out earlier against the Keystone pipeline.
The three will meet for the next televised Democratic debate on Saturday in Iowa, their first head-to-head debate since the field has winnowed to three main candidates.
Sanders and O’Malley have been stepping up their criticism of Clinton since the first debate, but she’s suggested she’s saving most of her fire for Republicans.
Sanders has drawn support from the Democratic Party’s liberal wing, and is mounting a strong challenge to Clinton in the early voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire. But national polls show Clinton with a sizable lead over the Vermont senator and she remains the favorite to win the Democratic nomination.
During a town hall meeting in Windham, Clinton said in response to a question that she would seek greater international coordination to address the threat of the Islamic State. But she held firm against sending in American soldiers.
”I don’t believe we should at all consider putting American troops into the area to fight ISIS,” she said.