Clinton talks humility and faith -- and less Trump

Story highlights

  • Clinton deliberately chose not to once utter Donald Trump's name Thursday night
  • Clinton's aides think the former secretary of state needs to talk more about herself in personal terms

Kansas City, Missouri (CNN)Hillary Clinton ever so briefly hit pause Thursday on the personal insults and character attacks that have dominated the presidential election, as she discussed her faith and humility at a Baptist convention.

Addressing a largely African-American congregation here, Clinton said, "I've made my share of mistakes" -- and deliberately chose not to once utter Donald Trump's name.
    "Humility is not something you hear about much in politics, is it? But you should. None of us is perfect," Clinton said. "I have learned to be grateful not just for my blessings but also for my faults -- and there are plenty."
    Clinton's 30-minute speech, coming two months out from Election Day, demonstrated her campaign's efforts to inject more of the Democratic nominee's personal touches into the election narrative and get beyond the intensely negative headlines that have dominated the news.
    Clinton will look to draw attention to some of her policy platforms in the coming weeks by delivering a series of "Stronger Together" speeches around the new book that she and running mate Tim Kaine published this week, Jennifer Palmieri, Clinton's spokeswoman, said Thursday.
    The speeches will speak to both what animates Clinton -- faith, children and families -- and how she will work to impact the economy and push national service.
    The push to get to a more positive message began Thursday with the speech in Kansas City. Clinton rarely touches on the issue of her faith and how it motivates her to serve. "It would have been easier to follow many of my law school classmates to a high-powered New York law firm, but the call to service rooted in my faith was just too powerful," she said.
    While Clinton didn't mention Trump directly in Kansas City, there were allusions to him, including his questioning of President Barack Obama's American citizenship.
    "We are facing a candidate with a long history of racial discrimination in his business, who traffics in toxic conspiracy theories like the lie that President Obama is not a true American," Clinton said. "If he doesn't respect all Americans, how can he serve all Americans?"
    And the speech was not entirely devoid of contentious politics. Clinton addressed gun control, criminal justice reform and economic equality during her remarks.

    Concerns about Clinton's unfavorables

    Clinton's second "Stronger Together" speech will be in California on Tuesday, Palmieri said.
    Palmieri said the four speeches (with the possibility of adding more) would be "more about her than about him" in an effort to ensure that "what is at the core of Hillary" is not lost in the coverage of "the controversial things that he says."
    Top Clinton aides worry that her responses to Trump's attacks have helped sullied her popularity numbers. An ABC News/Washington Post poll out late last month found that 56% of adults now view Clinton unfavorably. Sixty-three percent said the same about Trump, but what concerns Clinton's campaign is that her number is up 6% since early August.
    To combat that, Clinton's aides think the former secretary of state needs to take more about herself in personal terms and about her policies.
    "My experience is that we believe we have to work extra hard to make sure the positive notion of what she wants to do breaks through given the amount of interest that there is in what he says," Palmieri said. "So we recognize the reality of the cycle that we are living in and that we have to put more effort in doing that."
    One step in doing this: Having Clinton speak in softer, more humanizing formats such as the blog Humans of New York.
    Clinton sat down with the blog late last month and in comments published on Thursday, the former secretary of state expanded on perceptions that she can sometimes come off as "cold or unemotional," describing her struggle to control her emotions without seeming "walled off."
    The comments come as Clinton's campaign is hitting NBC and Matt Lauer for the way he handled the 2016 "Commander In Chief Forum" in New York City Wednesday night. Upset over his lack of fact-checking of Trump, the Clinton campaign sent a fundraising email to their supporters hitting Lauer.
    Clinton's speeches will focus on laying out what is in the new Clinton campaign book, which has become a bit of a prop for Clinton on the campaign trail. In her first in-flight gaggle, Clinton held the book as a prop and she has mentioned it at a series of events since then.
    The book retails on Amazon for $10.98 and the campaign has said the proceeds will go to charity.
    When asked Thursday which charity, Palmieri said, "Not the Clinton Foundation."