A seemingly humbled but healthier Hillary Clinton returned to the campaign trail with new urgency Thursday and sought to reframe the presidential election on her terms, vowing to deliver results for American families.
With just more than 50 days until election day and votes already being cast in many states, the most precious resource a candidate has is time. And Clinton, who has been sidelined with pneumonia since Sunday, returned to the campaign trail in North Carolina knowing she had some catching up to do.
“Sitting at home was pretty much the last place I wanted to be,” she told a modest crowd here after arriving on stage to James Brown’s “I Feel Good.”
But she cast her time off as an unexpected blessing, giving her time for reflection that allowed her to “really reconnect with what this campaign is all about.”
Throughout her remarks, the former secretary of State returned to the themes of a successful Democratic convention and even to her own announcement speech more than a year ago, detailing the causes she has fought for throughout her career and issues driving her to seek the nation’s highest office.
“I’m going to close my campaign the way I began my career,” she said, “focused on opportunities for kids and fairness for families.”
The choice of North Carolina for her return campaign appearance was intentional, campaign officials said, designed to send the message that they still believe they are on offense in a race that has tightened in recent days. President Obama carried the state in 2008 but narrowly lost it to Mitt Romney in 2012.
The campaign owns up to the challenge before it. But just as it argued that her post-convention high point was never quite as high as it seemed in polls, her camp views the turbulence of the last week as not quite as dire as those on the outside — even some vocal Democrats — might make it seem.
And so in the coming weeks, Clinton said she intends to make an affirmative case about her vision, starting Monday with an address in Philadelphia focused on the challenges of the millennial generation, followed by an economic speech in Florida.
Meanwhile, she encouraged supporters to “tune out all the chatter and the nonstop analysis that often doesn’t have much to do with what the next president has to do.”
It’s a message that has filtered throughout Clinton’s sprawling campaign, which is gearing up for the start of a massive voter-turnout operation as early and absentee voting begins across the country.
“One of the challenges of this cycle has been at times trying to get back to what the campaign is really supposed to be about – a vision the candidate has for the future,” campaign manager Robby Mook said in an interview Wednesday at the campaign’s Brooklyn, N.Y., headquarters. “So I think what you’re going to see from us over the next few weeks is trying to showcase why she’s running, what she wants to get done, the people she wants to help.”
“He’s going to be backed into a corner, both disclosing more so that we can have a better picture, but also explaining how in the world is he actually going to govern in the midst of all that,” Mook said.
In her remarks here, Clinton acknowledged that over years in the public eye, she has “built up some defenses” to deal with the charges of her opponents.
“When it comes to public service, I'm better at the service part than the public part,” she said.
But she defended the initial decision not to disclose her illness until after she appeared to collapse as she left a 9/11 memorial service in New York.
“My senior staff knew and information was provided to a number of people,” she said when asked whether her running mate, Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, was informed. “This was an ailment that many people just power through, and that’s what I thought I would do as well.”
Clinton also criticized Trump for a thin policy platform and for statements she labeled outrageous, such as his recent suggestion that he would order the nation into armed conflict if an opposing force simply taunted American troops.
“I’ll never be the showman my opponent is,” she said, citing his appearance on “The Dr. Oz Show” to release personal health information. “And that’s OK with me. … But I am going to deliver for you and your family.”
She noted she has been accused of a lot throughout her career, but “nobody ever accuses me of quitting.”
“I will never give up,” she said. “I’m actually asking Americans to hold me accountable for my ideas and hold my opponent accountable for his.”
Clinton acknowledged to reporters that polls have tightened but that she was confident she was in a strong position to win.
“What matters is who registers to vote and who is motivated and mobilized to turn out to vote,” she said.
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2:20 p.m.: Added details and comments from Clinton’s campaign appearance.
This story was originally published at 3 a.m.