Hillary Clinton says she would fight for equality for all as president
At her first campaign stop in Wisconsin, Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton portrayed herself as a leader who would fight for the equality for women — and all people — in America, drawing sharp distinctions between her beliefs and those of Republican candidates like Gov. Scott Walker and real estate mogul Donald Trump.
In a rousing 20-minute speech Thursday evening inside a packed room at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Student Union, Clinton framed issues such as equal pay for women, student loan debt and the Black Lives Matter movement as crucial for not just women, students and African-Americans, but the entire country.
She also slammed Trump’s comments about women and Walker’s policies, which she said harmed women and working families.
“I’ve been following what’s been going on in Wisconsin,” Clinton said. “I really have been so bewildered. I grew up in Chicago, and so I’d come up here. I would travel around Wisconsin even as a young girl, a young woman. And I always admired the people of this state. I admired their can-do spirit, their progressive spirit, their pioneering spirit. What happened?”
Walker fired back at Clinton with a statement touting his record in Wisconsin and accusing her of fighting for the “ruling class.”
“Hillary Clinton could learn a few lessons from the bold reforms we’ve enacted in Wisconsin since I took office,” he said. “To move our country forward like we moved Wisconsin forward, we need a fresh face from outside Washington, D.C., to wreak havoc on the status quo and put hardworking American taxpayers back in charge. Hillary Clinton, who has been fighting for the ruling class over the working class for years, is not fit to take up that mantle.”
Clinton has been slumping in the polls, including a Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday that showed Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont leading the former secretary of state for the first time among Iowa Democrats likely to caucus in February.
But she clearly had the support of the overwhelming majority of hundreds who gathered at the student union Thursday night.
The “Women for Hillary” event drew approximately 2,000 people, including 1,000 people inside the Wisconsin Room, an additional 300 watching in an adjourning theater and as many as 700 in a concourse of the union, said Tom Luljak, vice chancellor of university relations and communications for UW-Milwaukee.
Clinton noted the large number of students and young people in the crowd, saying she wanted to help the country recover from the devastation of the Great Recession.
“It was a terrible crisis. People were just knocked down, but they weren’t knocked out,” Clinton said. “And despite the loss of jobs, the loss of homes, the loss of dreams, people are coming back. America is coming back.”
She added that people “are ready to roll up their sleeves again,” and said moves like raising the minimum wage would help the economy get back on track.
She also cited subjects including climate change, the Islamic State and other terrorist groups, and the refugee crisis.
“Now, I want to be the president who takes on all the big problems you see on your screens,” Clinton said.
But she added that she also wanted to work on domestic issues such as affordable child care, equal pay, student loan debt and workers’ rights.
“What happens when you’re a proud union member and you have a governor who wants to drive you out?” Clinton said to booming applause and chants of “Hillary! Hillary!”
It was a clear reference to Walker and his 2011 measure, known as Act 10, that all but ended collective bargaining for most of Wisconsin’s public workers.
Earlier Thursday at Eureka College in Illinois, Walker promised supporters that on his first day in office as president he would tackle federal unions.
Clinton said her priorities as president would be to fight for the underdog and help those who have the deck stacked against them, such as workers and women.
“If advocating for equal pay for equal work is playing the gender card, deal me in,” she said.
Clinton also referenced last month’s first debate among Republican candidates, lamenting that the “party of Lincoln” had become “the party of Trump.”
She briefly had to speak over a small group of protesters.
She and others who spoke at the event rallied the crowd by showing how clearly her vision differed from that of Walker and other GOP candidates.
State Sen. Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee) tested the title “president” before names like Jeb Bush, Trump and Walker — drawing loud boos from the crowd — before adding that President Hillary Clinton was music to her ears.
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett didn’t mention Walker by name, but he mocked the Wisconsin governor’s comments that a wall between Canada and the United States was a legitimate issue.
“We may be able to build a fence around the world,” Barrett said to laughter and applause. “It’s a legitimate issue.”
He also praised Clinton as someone who believes women should make their own health care decisions, and a leader who would fight for equal pay for women.
“She’s concerned about all people in America having a chance,” said Barrett, who lost two gubernatorial races to Walker.
And while Clinton said a general election debate against Trump would be “a lot of fun,” she saved some of her most pointed criticisms for Walker.
“Let’s talk about your governor,” she said to boos. “Governor Walker has made it his personal mission to roll back women’s health care.”
She talked about his record, including defunding Planned Parenthood and signing into law the 20-week abortion ban.
“It seems to me just observing him that Governor Walker thinks because he busts unions, starves universities, guts public education, demeans women, scapegoats teachers, nurses and firefighters, he’s some kind of tough guy on his motorcycle. A real leader. Well, that is not leadership,” Clinton said. “It looks like he just gets his marching orders from the Koch brothers and just goes down the list.”
She ended her speech by saying she wants America to be a place where a father can tell his daughter: “You can be anything you want in this country, even president.”