Hillary Clinton was keenly aware of how long she’d gone as a presidential candidate without sitting down for a nationally televised interview.
“Ninety days on Sunday,” she told CNN’s Brianna Keilar on Tuesday in the first of what will be a series of national interviews.
As Bernie Sanders rises in the polls among liberals and Republicans continue to make Clinton the subject of a barrage of attacks, her answers offered some insight into the Democratic frontrunner’s thinking at this stage of the campaign.
Here are eight of Clinton’s key statements – and why they matter for 2016:
1. “This has been a theme that has been used against me and my husband for many, many years.”
Three decades in the limelight have meant both Bill and Hillary Clinton have weathered intense scrutiny and criticism. Clinton acknowledged that polls show a majority of Americans don’t view her as honest and trustworthy – but true to her long-standing posture declined to take any responsibility for the sentiment.
The latest round of public incredulity focuses on her use of a private email address while serving as secretary of state, and her family foundation’s acceptance of foreign contributions during that tenure.
Clinton sees those as the latest in a long line of unfair attacks from Republicans, rather than legitimate lines of inquiry. And she claims she’s not sweating the “trust” problem.
“At the end of the day, I think voters sort it all out,” Clinton said.
2. “They’re on a spectrum of hostility, which I think it’s really regrettable in a nation of immigrants like ours.”
It was a direct assault on the entire Republican presidential field – and Jeb Bush, in particular.
Clinton used a question about Donald Trump’s controversial remarks about Mexican immigrants to hammer her GOP opponents, saying that they don’t support providing undocumented immigrants with pathways to gaining U.S. citizenship. By painting Bush, Trump and the rest of the Republican field with the same brush, Clinton hopes to hurt the entire party in a general election with Latino voters.
“I’m very disappointed in those comments and I feel very bad and very disappointed with him and with the Republican Party for not responding immediately and saying, ‘Enough, stop it,’” Clinton said.
Bush – and other Republicans – eventually criticized Trump’s comments, but only after several days had passed.
3. “The city made a mistake not to deport someone that the federal government strongly felt should be deported.”
Clinton still senses some danger on the issue of illegal immigration, criticizing San Francisco for failing to deport a man who’d been sent back to Mexico five times before – and has admitted killing a woman after returning again.
The man was released from police custody in April after drug charges were dropped, and he wasn’t deported because San Francisco is a “sanctuary city” for undocumented immigrants, despite the Department of Homeland Security weighing in.
She’s said she supports going further than President Barack Obama has on undocumented immigrants – but only for those who obey the law.
“I have absolutely no support for a city that ignores the strong evidence that should be acted on,” she said.
4. “I am happy to have a chance to get out and run my campaign as I see fit and let other candidates do exactly the same.”
In other words: I’m not going to talk about Bernie Sanders.
Recent polls show Sanders climbing closer to Clinton in New Hampshire and Iowa, two key early voting states. But Clinton isn’t yet ready to directly engage Sanders, training her fire instead on Republicans.
That’s in part because her campaign wants to see whether Sanders has staying power, and in part because by attacking him, she risks elevating his already growing stature.
5. “One of the things I learned last time is organize, organize, organize.”
Clinton is trying to atone for the sins of her 2008 campaign among Iowa Democratic caucus voters by taking the process seriously.
It’s why she was in Iowa City – in the heart of eastern Iowa, which went heavily for Barack Obama in the 2008 caucuses.
Clinton has shown she’s able to learn from her mistakes: Those who followed her 2008 Iowa campaign say they see a looser, more comfortable candidate; and she’s ejected many of the most divisive figures from that previous bid.
Now, she’s touting having signed up a volunteer to work the caucus process for her in all of Iowa’s more than 1,600 precincts.
“You’ve got to get people committed, and then they will bring more people through,” Clinton said.
6. “I’m not running my campaign for the press. I’m running it for the voters.”
Throughout her nascent campaign, Clinton has been criticized for rarely taking questions from the press. That criticism was thrust to the forefront again over the Fourth of July holiday when photos of reporters being held back by a moving rope line at a parade were published.
Instead, Clinton said she’s preferred small group events that have allowed her to reconnect with average Americans after more than six years out of domestic politics. She’s also been a tireless fundraiser, attending house party after house party to raise $45 million in the campaign’s first three months.
Still, Clinton said she’s ready to shift gears: The CNN interview, she said, was the first of what will be a number of sit-downs with national outlets.
7. “A secure fax machine, which is harder to work than the regular.”
A tense exchange about Clinton’s use of a personal email address on a private server while at the State Department turned light, when Clinton cracked jokes and once again sought to send the message: Nothing to see here, let’s move along.
“Now, I didn’t have to turn over anything,” Clinton said. “I chose to turn over 55,000 pages because I wanted to go above and beyond what was expected of me because I knew the vast majority of everything that was official already was in the State Department system.”
Then, she added: “Now I think it’s kind of fun. People get to see a real-time, behind-the-scenes look at what I was emailing about and what I was communicating about.”
Keilar highlighted the emails that showed Clinton messaging now-top aide John Podesta about wearing socks to bed, and an exchange depicting an epic struggle by Clinton to operate a fax machine.
On the latter, Clinton couldn’t help but offer a defense.
“Yes, a secure fax machine, which is harder to work than the regular,” she said.
8. “I think I’m the best Hillary Clinton.”
Asked by Keilar which “Saturday Night Live” actress best satirizes her on the NBC program, Clinton demurred, but offered praise for both Amy Poehler, who impersonated her in 2008, and Kate McKinnon, who has done the job so far in this campaign cycle.
“Amy’s a friend of mine and Kate’s doing a great job. You’re not going to get me to pick one or the other,” she said. “I think I’m the best Hillary Clinton, to be honest.”