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Clinton Campaign Launch Takes A Personal Tone


Two of the big names in the U.S. presidential race will officially kick-off their campaigns in the next couple of days. Hillary Clinton, who's been a candidate for a couple of months, hosts her first large event today, a sort of kick-off rally in New York. Monday, Jeb Bush will formally announce his candidacy in Miami. Polls show Hillary Clinton well ahead in the Democratic race, although there have been recent challenges - and gains, by Senator Bernie Sanders. Jeb Bush had a slight lead in a crowded field, but now Wisconsin's Governor Scott Walker, Florida's Senator Marco Rubio, have pulled even in polls. NPR's National Political Correspondent Mara Liasson joins us.

Mara, thanks so much for being with us.

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Happy to be here.

SIMON: And Hillary Clinton, I gather, today is going to appear at Roosevelt Island in the East River. Not just there for the view, is she?

LIASSON: No, although it's a pretty good view. FDR was the iconic Democratic president. He was strong abroad. He built the foundation for a strong, secure postwar middle-class at home. And that's not a bad metaphor for what Hillary Clinton wants to do.

SIMON: What do you expect we're going to hear today?

LIASSON: Her campaign aides say she's going to get very personal today, more personal than Hillary Clinton has ever been in a political speech before. You know, she has the reputation for being cautious, even a little rigid. But today, she's going to talk about her mother. She's going to tell the story of her own mother - how she was abused and abandoned as a child - and how her mother's experiences motivated her to become a lifelong advocate for children and families. And she's going to try to do something that's been missing from her campaign so far, which is to lay out the rationale - why does she want to be president? If in 2008, Barack Obama was the future and she was the past, why eight years later is she the future? She's going to try to explain today that she understands the struggles of middle-class families, that she has specific solutions for those problems, whether it's debt-free college, paid family leave, early childhood education, and above all, you're going to hear her say today that she will fight to enact those solutions. And, you know, Scott, you just mentioned that her poll numbers have been dropping a bit. Majorities of voters now say she's not honest and trustworthy. Today Hillary Clinton wants to reframe that question to, can you trust her to fight for you and your family?

SIMON: And meanwhile on the Republican side, Jeb Bush announces on Monday, though of course he's been giving speeches and raising money for quite some time now. Is he announcing just as his numbers have slipped?

LIASSON: Yes, he is. You know, Jeb Bush's inauspicious start to his campaign has surprised a lot of Republicans. They thought that his fundraising success and the fact that he has so much Republican establishment support would help him break out of the pack at least a little, but he hasn't. He is in the top tier, but he's not nearly as dominant as his brother was at this time in 1999. He's had trouble explaining how he would differ from his brother. He's shaken-up his staff. And his event on Monday is really a second chance for him to make a first impression.

SIMON: What kind of themes might he take up?

LIASSON: I think you're going to hear him send an anti-Washington, D.C. message, which is aimed not just at Hillary Clinton, but also at his Republican rivals who are senators, like Marco Rubio and Rand Paul. He'll talk about his record as an education reformer when he was the governor of Florida. And the setting for Bush's event is also very symbolic. He'll be at Miami Dade Community College, which is the largest community college in the country. It's very diverse. And he'll be presenting himself as someone who has broad general election appeal, someone who can attract voters that Republicans have turned off in the past, particularly Hispanics. Jeb speaks fluent Spanish. His wife is Mexican and his kids are bilingual and bicultural.

SIMON: NPR's Mara Liasson, thanks so much.

LIASSON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.