Top Clinton aides: 'Who will fight for you?' will define 2016 race

The night before Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign officially launched in New York, her campaign manager and communications director explained how their team will try to define her as the candidate who will fight for everyday people.

Left to right, Politico's Mike Allen, Hillary for America communications director Jennifer Palmieri and campaign manager Robby Mook
Left to right, Politico's Mike Allen, Hillary for America communications director Jennifer Palmieri and campaign manager Robby Mook

On the eve of Hillary Clinton’s campaign launch event in New York City, two top aides to the Democratic frontrunner said she will not only show she’d be a "fighter" for the middle class, but also demonstrate the values that drive her.

The central theme of the former secretary of state’s campaign will be emphasizing that she will go to bat for everyday Americans, said campaign manager Robby Mook and communications director Jennifer Palmieri during a Q&A session with Politico’s Mike Allen on Friday.

"We need to explain to people where that comes from in her, what drives her," said Palmieri.

Clinton will present her record as a champion of the middle class in her Saturday speech, according to several previews of the event in the media. Palmieri called it "the question that, from now to Election Day, the campaign is going to answer."

She will also emphasize the influence her mother had on her life, according to several reports.

To that effect, the Hillary for America campaign posted a biographical video on YouTube on Friday that touches on her experience as a Senator from New York and secretary of state, as well as an advocate for women and children.

Palmieri also disputed that the campaign has conducted a "media lockdown" since Clinton formally announced her candidacy nearly two months ago, despite the frontrunner taking few questions from the traveling press.

"I don’t think the voters in [early caucus and primary states] think there’s been a lockdown," said Palmieri, noting that Clinton takes questions from attendees at events.

Asked if the former first lady will interact with the media more often after Saturday’s event, Mook responded, "Of course she will."

On the media’s frustration with not being able to quote Clinton aides on-the-record, Palmieri said many political staffers "default to that," adding that "it’s something we’re going to get better with."

One question noted that a recurring background source on stories about the former president and first lady is "a source familiar with the Clintons’ thinking." Palmieri replied, "The truth is that the Clintons talk to a lot of people, and that is a good thing."

While Clinton is firmly established as the Democratic frontrunner, far ahead of both Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, her numbers have taken a hit amid stories about "emailgate" and donations to the Clinton Foundation. More than half (57%) of respondents to a recent CNN/ORC poll said they do not consider her trustworthy, up from previous surveys.

Mook said many polls are not accurate, and also disputed Allen’s statement that an "enthusiasm gap" exists, with Clinton on the low end compared with President Obama’s 2008 run.

"I have been literally all around the country," Mook said. "I have been in rooms jammed with people who are psyched to be a part of the campaign."

He also pushed back against one question from a member of the audience about why Clinton hasn’t released more policy specifics.

"One thing I have been really proud of is how Hillary has gotten out there and really fought for certain issues," such as immigration policy, he noted.

Is hosting Saturday Night Live in Hillary’s future?

"The idea has merit," said Palmieri, adding that Clinton’s staff thinks the show’s portrayal of her boss is "hilarious."

The Supreme Court’s impact:
Mook said the High Court’s upcoming decision on gay marriage will "put into even higher relief the differences between the two parties. He said Clinton’s 2016 campaign is likely the first with a chief diversity officer.

Where’s Bill?
There is "no timetable" for getting the former president more involved in the campaign, said Palmieri. One Clintonism relayed by Mook: "Lets major in the majors, not in the minors.

On Elizabeth Warren:
The Massachusetts senator, often pined for by the left wing of the Democratic Party, is "one of many voices advocating reshuffling the deck" economically to favor middle-class Americans.

On the drip, drip, drip of stories about donations to the Clinton Foundation:
"I’m not concerned about this stuff," Mook said, contending Republicans are trying to change the subject from their own policies.

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