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Hillary Clinton Kicks Off Presidential Campaign With First Events In Iowa


Hillary Clinton is now campaigning in Iowa, the first-in-the-nation caucus state, as part of an effort to reintroduce herself to voters. Clinton is trying to run as if she were unknown, trading big rallies for small events and conversations over coffee. NPR's Tamara Keith has been following along for this first day of campaigning and joins us now from the Jones County campus of Kirkwood Community College. And Tam, set the scene for us. What exactly went on there?

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Jones County is a fairly rural, not even necessarily Democrat-friendly part of Iowa. And she came to this community college and toured around with some students - no cameras present for that. And then she sat down for a roundtable discussion - technically, a rectangular-table discussion - with about a half a dozen people - students, faculty members, a woman who's returning to college - she's a single mom - a young man who's going off to the Naval Academy soon and discussed the model that she believes this campus sets. They have high school students attending college classes, earning credits and also people getting certificates so that they can do things like go and become welders.

SIEGEL: Now, in the course of that discussion, did Hillary Clinton talk about her rationale for running?

KEITH: She did. I guess she anticipated that a few people would have that question. She talked about her granddaughter, Charlotte, and she said that she wants to make sure all children have the same opportunities as Charlotte. And she said that she's running because she thinks Americans need a champion and that she wants to be that champion. She outlined four big fights.


HILLARY CLINTON: We need to build the economy of tomorrow, not yesterday. We need to strengthen families and communities because that's where it all starts. We need to fix our dysfunctional political system and get unaccountable money out of it once and for all, even if that takes a constitutional amendment. And we need to protect our country from the threats that we see and the ones that are on the horizon.

KEITH: And one other bit of policy news - she defended the Common Core Education Standards which are pretty controversial, especially on the right.

SIEGEL: Now, we've heard a lot about the Clinton campaign strategy of going small. How is that going so far?

KEITH: This event was very small in terms of the number of people actually attending it. The number of reporters here was a lot, and in fact, they had to turn many reporters away. Earlier in the day she went to a coffee shop - a small coffee shop and spoke to just three people at a table, also shook hands with a few other people in the coffee shop. There was a press pool, so it was a smaller entourage, certainly. She ordered tea and coffee both, and it did have a - somewhat of an artificial feel, but, you know, she is this giant political celebrity. There were people trying to figure out where she would be, and so the fact that she was able to, at least for a short period of time, sit down with a few people - it seems that they've at least succeeded at getting her in some smaller settings.

SIEGEL: OK, thank you, Tam.

KEITH: You're welcome.

SIEGEL: That's NPR correspondent Tamara Keith who's covering Hillary Clinton's first day campaigning in Iowa. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tamara Keith has been a White House correspondent for NPR since 2014 and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast, the top political news podcast in America. Keith has chronicled the Trump administration from day one, putting this unorthodox presidency in context for NPR listeners, from early morning tweets to executive orders and investigations. She covered the final two years of the Obama presidency, and during the 2016 presidential campaign she was assigned to cover Hillary Clinton. In 2018, Keith was elected to serve on the board of the White House Correspondents' Association.