Clinton campaign launch nears

(AP) -- After months of anticipation, Hillary Rodham Clinton is expected to launch her presidential campaign sometime in the next two weeks with an initial focus on intimate events putting her in close contact with voters.

Clinton wants to avoid soaring speeches delivered to big rallies, and the risk they'll convey the same cloak of inevitability that contributed to her loss in the 2008 Democratic primaries to Barack Obama.

The goal, according to people close to the Clinton organization, is to make her second run for the White House more about voters and less about herself, regardless of her place atop a field of candidates that currently looks far weaker this time around.

"For Secretary Clinton, it's about being at the level with the people," said Robert Gibbs, a longtime political adviser to President Obama. "You're demonstrating to people that you're on the ground ready to work each and every day for that vote."

Clinton's initial events are expected to be held in Iowa and New Hampshire, the first states to vote in the presidential primary contest. Robby Mook, who is slated to serve as Clinton's campaign manager, and Marlon Marshall, a top incoming campaign aide, traveled to both states last week to meet party activists and longtime Clinton allies.

"There was a significant lack of ego and a great deal of humility," said Jerry Crawford, a Des Moines attorney who served as Clinton's Midwest chairman in 2008 and attended the Iowa meeting.

Clinton aides have long said her second White House run will look different from the first, and a focus on smaller, more unscripted events will be how she tries to make good on that pledge. In 2008, Clinton tried to compete with Obama's large rallies, but she couldn't match his rhetorical skills at the podium or the massive crowds that gathered to see him speak.

Some Clinton aides say they regretted trying to match Obama rather than play to her strengths. Friends and advisers have long said she is more at ease in small group settings and one-on-one conversations where she can display both policy expertise and a personal warmth that she sometimes struggles to convey in front of larger crowds.

When Clinton ran successfully for the Senate in 2000, she kicked off her campaign with a listening tour across New York state.

But in her 2016 presidential campaign, Clinton's expected approach also comes with risks. More loosely scripted appearances increase the chance she could be drawn off message or make a misstep. The former secretary of state has been off the campaign trail for years, and she seemed rusty in fielding questions during interviews on a book tour last year.

The exact date of Clinton's launch is a closely guarded secret, but the announcement is expected by mid-April. Her aides have been checking in with longtime supporters on their whereabouts this month and Democratic operatives in Iowa and New Hampshire have essentially been put on standby.

Clinton's decision to sign a lease last week for two floors of office space in Brooklyn likely set off a 15-day period in which presidential candidates are required to make their intentions known.

The secrecy surrounding the date has set off a guessing game among both Democrats and potential Republican candidates trying to carve out space for their own announcements. Political operatives are speculating about everything from whether Clinton would avoid launching on tax day -- April 15 -- or whether she might want to peg her launch to Equal Pay Day on April 14.

Clinton may make the official announcement with an online video or social media post, though those plans are still being finalized, according to those familiar with the campaign plans. They insisted on anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the details on the record.

Clinton's early campaign stops will take her to the sites of both great victories and crushing defeats. New Hampshire was a winning state for her in 2008, as well as for husband Bill Clinton in his two presidential runs. Iowa has been less kind to the family's White House ambitions.

It's unclear whether Bill Clinton will hold solo events in the campaign's early stages. While the former president and daughter Chelsea are expected to have a hand in campaign strategy, people close to the organization say there have been discussions about the need for Clinton to build out her own biography separate from that of her famous husband.


Associated Press writer Ken Thomas contributed to this report.


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