NEW YORK — Hillary Rodham Clinton is calling for a new era of shared prosperity and says workers can trust her to fight for them, themes outlined in a speech promoted as her formal presidential campaign debut.
At an outdoor rally Saturday on New York City’s Roosevelt Island, Clinton planned to portray herself as a fierce advocate for those left behind after the recession.
She intended to describe a lifetime of work on behalf of struggling families and cite her mother’s difficult childhood as the inspiration for what she considers a calling.
Her campaign said that “tenacious fighter” message will be the foundation of her 2016 White House race. By contrast, she has kept silent so far on several contentious issues, including two seen by Republicans as central to economic growth: a proposed trade deal with Pacific Rim nations and the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada to Texas.
Eager and excited Democrats began assembling hours before Clinton’s first major speech of her second White House campaign.
Marc Markley of New York said he showed up at 2:30 a.m. and waited in the dark for the gates to open, with only a police officer for company.
“I was about to fall asleep earlier, but now it’s totally worth it,” he said. “I can’t wait to get inside.”
Clinton was to speak just before noon.
Those arriving were greeted by campaign manager Robby Mook, who took an all-hands-on-deck approach to the event by hawking merchandise — a role typically assigned to a low-level staffer or volunteer.
“Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to our rally today,” Mook called out to the crowd filtering into Four Freedoms park, before directing them to a table selling campaign T-shirts and other campaign-branded gear. “Thanks for being here — and buy some products.”
Long one of the most divisive figures in U.S. politics, Clinton wanted to use the speech to present herself on her own terms and turn her history into a strength.
She lost the 2008 nomination to then-Sen. Barack Obama.
Her campaign released a video on Friday detailing her four decades in public service, starting with her work as a young lawyer at the Children’s Defense Fund.
After the Saturday speech, Clinton planned to visit early-voting states, with events focused on her relationship with her mother and her father’s background as a veteran and small businessman.
“You have to get up off the floor and you keep fighting,” Clinton says in the video, discussing her failed 1993 attempt to overhaul the nation’s health care system during the administration of her husband, President Bill Clinton. “Everyday Americans need a champion.”
Clinton has spoken out strongly on immigration and other issues important to parts of the Democratic base.
But she has been reticent on other policy questions that have divided the party, among them a trade deal with Pacific Rim nations.
Obama backs it. Organized labor, liberals and others say it would cost U.S. jobs.
On Friday, dozens of union-backed House Democrats voted down a critical part of Obama’s trade agenda, negotiating authority that would let him propose trade agreements that Congress could accept or reject, but not amend.
Clinton did not intend to offer specific policy proposals in her speech. Aides said that would come in the following weeks on issues that include college affordability, jobs and the economy.
Clinton was expected to be joined by her husband and daughter Chelsea at the rally.
It would be the first time the family had been seen together in public since Clinton began her campaign in April.
Associated Press Radio Correspondent Julie Walker contributed to this report.