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In Iowa, Hillary Clinton stays studiously on-message

The first official stop on the campaign’s Iowa tour followed an informal stop at a coffee shop, where Clinton chatted with would-be voters.
Democratic presidential hopeful and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton looks on during a roundtable discussion with students and educators on April 14, 2015 in Monticello, Iowa. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty)
Democratic presidential hopeful and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton looks on during a roundtable discussion with students and educators at the Kirkwood Community College Jones County Regional Center on April 14, 2015 in Monticello, Iowa.

MONTICELLO, Iowa -- Hillary Clinton’s campaign rolled into Monticello, Iowa, on Tuesday, in its candidate-dubbed “Scooby van,” kicking off a charm offensive with caucus voters that took the former secretary of state to a rural community college not far from Cedar Rapids. But more than anything else, Hillary was studiously on message -- a sharp contrast to the sometimes chaotic messaging exhibited by the same candidate in 2008.

Clinton, casually dressed in a dark blue jacket over bright lime green, articulated four pillars of her still-to-come campaign platform; four “big fights” she foresees on the horizon: building “the economy of tomorrow, not yesterday,” strengthening families and communities, fixing “our dysfunctional political system and get[ting] unaccountable money out of it once and for all, even if that takes a constitutional amendment,” and protect[ing] our country from the threats that we see, and the ones that are on the horizon.”

Before and after chatting with would-be voters, candidate Clinton explained why she is running for president, reprising the now familiar lines from her kick-off campaign video, saying she wanted to be a champion for those against whom the economic deck remains “stacked” in favor of “those already at the top.” She touched on her work with the Children’s Defense Fund after Yale Law School, and made several allusions to her biography, growing up in the Illinois suburbs.

RELATED: Hillary Clinton: 'The deck is still stacked in favor of those at the top'

“A lot of people in the last few days have asked me, ‘Well, you know, why do you want do this? What motivates you?’” Clinton said. “And I’ve thought a lot about it and I guess the short answer is, I’ve been fighting for children and families my entire adult life, probably because of my mother’s example. She had a really difficult childhood – was mistreated, neglected, but she never gave up. She had to basically be on her own at the time she was 14 and she just kept going. And my father who was a small businessman and just believed that you had to work hard to make your way and do whatever you had to do to be successful and provided a good living for our family.”

Clinton added allusions to her religious upbringing, saying, “And then I was thinking too about, you know, the lessons I learned from my church. You know, you’re supposed to give back. You’re supposed to do what you can to help others and that’s what I’ve tried to do and we’ll have more time to talk about that as we go forward.”

Clinton gave her full support to the president’s push to make community college free for all American students, and added that any such program should also address the ancillary costs of schooling, like books and supplies.

After the chat, reporters shouted out questions to Clinton asking for more details on her campaign finance ideas. The newly minted candidate, ever gracious but scrupulously on message, smiled, reiterated her lines about being a champion for those left behind by the economy, and was ushered out of the classroom.