CHICAGO -- With a surprising loss in Michigan behind her, Hillary Clinton hopscotched across the county on Thursday to get out the vote in Florida, North Carolina and Illinois. And at each stop, Clinton delivered a distinctly localized pitch, carefully crafted to touch voters who will cast a ballot on March 15.
"Let's just focus on a minute on two big areas that will be important here in Tampa and throughout Florida: infrastructure and climate change, " Clinton said in Tampa, at her first rally of the day. Noting that the Tampa's port supports 80,000 jobs, she knocked Florida Gov. Rick Scott and called for greater investment in infrastructure across the state.
"We have to do more to make sure Tampa stays a center for goods coming in and out," she said. She added that, if elected, she would extend investment to the construction of a high-speed rail system to connect Tampa to Orlando, a federally funded project that Scott decided to forego. Clinton's focus on local issues has become a central part of her strategy to win over voters across the country.
It's a style that she also used recently in Michigan, when she connected her jobs plan to Chevrolet's operations there and local businesses, and back in October in Alabama, when she spoke out against closures of driver's license offices in largely African American areas.
In Durham, N.C. on Thursday afternoon, Clinton spoke to more than 1,400 supporters crowded into the gym of the historically black Hillside High School, many of them students. She devoted the bulk of her remarks to a promise to be a "partner" to them, their teachers and their school board to improve conditions inside public schools.
"For the life of me, I don't know why the Republicans have such a problem with funding public schools to the extent that they should," Clinton said, pointing out that teachers' salaries in the state have been "slashed" and that North Carolina ranks 46th in the country in financial support for public schools. She said she owed her personal success to her own public education and, for North Carolina, she proposed giving the school system a little bit of "TLC": "teaching, learning, and community."
"Public education remains the foundation of our democracy," she said, to cheers from the audience, "and we are going to fight for it."
And later, in Vernon Hills, Ill., Clinton said it was "emotional" to return to her home state. Clinton grew up in Park Ridge, Ill., about 20 miles from where she was speaking.
"I am so grateful that I come from this part of the country that I've had so many wonderful experiences," she said. "I have friends literally going back to kindergarten, some of them are here tonight."
Clinton's opponent in the race for the Democratic primary, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, spent the day Thursday campaigning in Florida and, on Friday, he has stops planned in North Carolina, Ohio and Illinois.
Top aides to Clinton believe Sanders will do well in Illinois, Ohio and Missouri, but that she has the advantage in Florida and North Carolina.
Speaking to reporters in Tampa, Clinton showed confidence in the state of the race. "We're ahead," she said. "We're going to stay ahead and we're going to win as many states as we can."
"I don't take anything for granted," she added, continuing a message she's stuck with since the start of the campaign. "I'm going to work really really hard in every one of them."