PORTSMOUTH, N.H. — Hillary Rodham Clinton is dropping in the polls here, and her presidential campaign is beset by the continued controversy over her private e-mail server, but she tried to place both issues on the back burner here Saturday in a showy display of what her latest big-name endorser called “pink power.”
On a warm and clear day in this historic New England port city, Clinton rallied about 1,300 supporters on the steps of an old schoolhouse with a focus on women’s and family issues.
In a presidential campaign where the loudest talkers have gotten the most attention, Clinton cast herself as the closest listener, saying she has heard concerns from single mothers juggling their jobs and children, from students struggling to pay off student loans, from grandmothers raising their grandchildren because their daughters are battling drug addictions.
“I am paying attention,” Clinton said. “Other candidates may be out there hurling insults at everyone, talking about what’s wrong with America and who’s to blame for it, but I’m going to keep doing what I’ve always done: fight for you and fight for your families.”
Clinton is trying to regain control of her own political narrative as polls this summer have shown voters increasingly distrustful of her.
At the Portsmouth rally, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) formally endorsed Clinton. Her endorsement was never in doubt: The two women long have been close allies. But the Clinton campaign hoped that by rolling it out over the Labor Day weekend, traditionally the kick-off to a more intensive fall phase of the campaign year, Shaheen could help refresh a campaign at a challenging time.
In her remarks here, Shaheen tried to reassure voters that Clinton can be trusted.
“I chose Hillary because I know her and I trust her,” Shaheen said, adding: “She is a voice for the voiceless, someone who always chooses to lift people up rather than tear people down.”
Both women appeared on stage in pink pantsuit jackets and held up their arms together. “This is pink power!” Shaheen said.
When Clinton took to the podium, where she read her speech from teleprompters, she celebrated New Hampshire’s history of breaking gender barriers as the first state to elect more women than men in the legislature and the first to send an all-female delegation to Congress.
Saturday’s rally came on the 20th anniversary of Clinton’s address in Beijing, where as first lady she declared at a United Nations women’s conference, “Human rights are women’s rights, and women’s rights are human rights.”
Shaheen called the Beijing address a “clarion call” and “a seminal moment for women an girls around the world.”
Clinton wove stories about her mother’s difficult upbringing and her own earlier career as a children’s advocate into her otherwise political stump speech. As she has for weeks on the campaign trail, Clinton had sharp words for the Republican party and its leading candidates, including a rare reference to Ben Carson — recognition from her that the retired neurosurgeon had emerged a top-tier GOP contender.
Clinton voiced disbelief that Donald Trump — “the flamboyant front-runner,” as she mockingly called him — had questioned her advocacy for women’s health. “Now that’s a general election debate that’s going to be a lot of fun,” she said.
Clinton added, “If it’s all the same to you, Mr. Trump, I’d rather you stop 'cherishing' women and start respecting them.”
By the end of her 30-minute speech, Clinton had not mentioned the e-mail controversy that hangs over her campaign.
But in a later news conference, she defended her use of a private server as secretary of state. Asked whether she was paying the legal fees of her top aides who have been enveloped in the federal investigation — and if not, if she knew who was — Clinton said, “I have no idea.”
Clinton said she has encouraged all of her staff — including Bryan Pagliano, the State Department staffer whom The Washington Post reported Friday night had been paid by the Clintons personally to maintain her private server — to cooperate fully with the investigation.
“I feel strongly that the facts are the facts,” she said. “We’ve been repeating them over and over again, and we will continue to do so.” Regarding Pagliano specifically, she added, “We obviously paid for those services and did so because during a period of time we continued to need his technical assistance.”
As the news conference wrapped up, a reporter asked Clinton whether she considered herself a “joyful” candidate, as former Florida governor Jeb Bush had vowed to become.
“I do,” Clinton said, ignoring the fact that her summer on the campaign trail has seemed to be more of an uncomfortable grind than a joyous exercise.
“Off we go, joyfully,” Clinton quipped as she stepped away from the podium. The candidate turned back to the press corps and, snapping her fingers, said, “Let’s get some joy going.”