Clinton Paints Herself as the 'Everyday American' Although Hillary Clinton has spent much of her adult life living in the White House or a governor's mansion, she is portraying herself as a "normal American" — particularly while campaigning in blue-collar states like Indiana.
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Clinton Paints Herself as the 'Everyday American'

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Clinton Paints Herself as the 'Everyday American'

Clinton Paints Herself as the 'Everyday American'

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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

Hillary Clinton is a millionaire, and she's spent a good deal of her adult life in a governor's mansion or a presidential mansion. Nevertheless, as she campaigns for president, Clinton has been mastering the art of seeming like an everyday American. In a moment, we'll hear how her efforts are affecting her standing in the polls against Barack Obama.

First, though, to Indiana, where as NPR's David Greene reports, Clinton has intensified her attempts to prove that she understands working people.

(Soundbite of laughter)

DAVID GREENE: One night at an Indiana bar may have said it all.

(Soundbite of crowd chatter)

Senator HILLARY CLINTON (Democrat, New York; Democratic Presidential Candidate): ...No, I don't want anything sweet... Crown Royal, good.

GREENE: Hillary Clinton called for a shot of Crown Royal. At first, she sipped the whiskey from her shot glass. Then she knocked the rest back.

(Soundbite of cheering)

GREENE: And with that night two weeks ago, Clinton began a feverish campaign to convince the people of Indiana that she's one of them. That kind of strategy worked in states like Ohio and Pennsylvania, where working-class voters came out for Clinton in huge numbers. But in the final days before Indiana's primary, Clinton's working harder than ever to listen to people and make them feel comfortable.

Sen. CLINTON: You want to pull up another chair, honey? Is there another chair?

Unidentified Man: There might be one...

Sen. CLINTON: Yeah, why don't you see if there's a stool or a chair? Okay.

GREENE: This was Clinton in Johnnie Parker's dining room. She flew to northwest Indiana for what the campaign called a kitchen-table conversation. Clinton settled in. There were cookies, tea and microphones. Johnnie works at a sheet metal company, and he chatted with Clinton about gas prices.

Mr. JOHNNIE PARKER: I used to see people pump gas, go in and buy lottery tickets or buy chips or something like that, and then they'd come out. Now all I see is people paying basically with their credit cards, and it's just pump their gas, then they're out the door.

Sen. CLINTON: Right. Well, you know, the price of gas has gone up so much in the last year, with no end in sight.

GREENE: Clinton went around the table asking everyone to discuss their problems. Johnnie's wife, Peggy, has been battling an illness.

Sen. CLINTON: How long have you had MS?

Ms. PEGGY PARKER: Since 1988.

Sen. CLINTON: Mm-hmm. So, you're managing it pretty well.

Ms. PARKER: Oh, yes.

Sen. CLINTON: That's great. Well, good for you.

Mr. PARKER: Yeah. And the other...

GREENE: And that's how it went for a half hour.

Sen. CLINTON: Well, I really wish you well.

Mr. PARKER: All right, thank you.

Sen. CLINTON: Really nice to see you.

GREENE: So Tuesday, it was Johnnie Parker's dining room. Yesterday, Clinton rode shotgun in a truck with a South Bend man commuting to work. And today, Clinton talked with families in a makeshift living room. At each stop, she talked policy detail and tried to show she can connect. And for anyone with doubts, Clinton's been running this ad.

(Soundbite of campaign ad)

Sen. CLINTON: My father served in the Navy and ran a small business. My mother taught Sunday school and took care of us. I come from Park Ridge, Illinois...

GREENE: Sure, Clinton grew up in an affluent neighborhood. She's been talking much more about her dad's small business.

Sen. CLINTON: He had a printing plant, and it was a long, narrow building with a long, narrow table that you would put silk screens on and you'd put the paint in. And you'd take the squeegee and...

GREENE: She was describing all this to workers at a wood manufacturing plant in Indianapolis this week. She said the time she spent in her dad's plant grounded her.

Sen. CLINTON: And it taught me the value of knowing where things come from.

GREENE: On Tuesday night, Clinton filled the town square in Princeton, Indiana. She was reaching out to people like Linda Pope. Her husband's in the coal business, and she has been staying home to take care of her sick mother. Linda said to her, Clinton's believable.

Ms. LINDA POPP: At first, I used to listen to Obama, honestly. And I really don't hear anything what he's going to do.

GREENE: And Clinton knows voters like Linda may be her best chance for a victory in this state.

David Greene, NPR News, Indianapolis.

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