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In N.H. trip, Hillary Clinton calls for early education

Hillary Clinton sat with a pre-kindergarten classroom of 4- and 5-year-olds, where she helped read “The Very Hungry Caterpillar.”Darren McCollester/Getty Images

ROCHESTER, N.H. — Hillary Rodham Clinton, in one of the first major policy addresses of her presidential run, called Monday for every 4-year-old to have access to "high-quality" prekindergarten within a decade.

"We shouldn't think of child care as just a place to deposit your kids, a warehouse," she told hundreds at the YMCA of Strafford County. "We should invest in programs that create healthy environments for early learning."

Her policy rollout came on the same day that tensions flared between her campaign and the national press corps. Early in the day, Clinton's campaign banned a designated national press pool reporter from covering two of her events. In Rochester, local media were turned away while 300 New Hampshirites waited inside.


But the policy focus of her New Hampshire visit, her first in a new phase of her campaign that kicked off with a large weekend rally in New York City, remained squarely on the message that early-childhood education is critical in preparing children for the future. If elected president, she said, she would work with federal incentives to provide prekindergarten for 4-year-old children as well as access to child care from birth until 3 years old.

"Every baby comes into this world with so much God-given potential," Clinton said. "And when they leave the hospital, some will have every opportunity their family can give them, and others will struggle."

Before she announced her proposal, Clinton sat with a prekindergarten classroom, where she helped read "The Very Hungry Caterpillar." The class teacher, Eve Sterling of Middleton, read the story while Clinton added color commentary for 18 students.

Clinton's campaign stressed the event would be open to the public, and 20 minutes before it began, only standing room was available. Clinton also took questions from the audience on child care, drug addiction, and education funding.


After her YMCA visit, Clinton headed to Concord to hold her first large-scale 2016 campaign rally in New Hampshire, speaking to 500 people gathered inside an apple orchard barn. During 25 minutes of remarks, Clinton stressed a populist message, tying economic anxiety to retirement and college affordability.

"Now the question is: When does your hard work pay off? When does your family get ahead? When?" Clinton asked.

As she did at her Rochester event, Clinton attempted to shake the hand of every person in the room. Then she held court with the press for 15 minutes — the third and longest media availability of her presidential campaign so far.

When asked three times about her position on a trade agreement with Asian nations, Clinton declined to take a position on the issue, which has split the Democratic Party. But Clinton did address questions about her personal wealth and whether it contrasts with her populist message.

"I am very grateful for the success that Bill and I have had," Clinton said. "But I have been saying pretty much the same thing since I was a college student. I am proud of my progressive credentials and my experiences and my accomplishments and I am waging a campaign about what I think is best for the country."

Clinton revealed little more on her early-childhood education initiative, declining to put a figure on what it would cost.

The session marked the most recent chapter in Clinton's dealings with the national media, which had demanded more access to the perceived front-runner for her party's nomination.


The journalist denied access to the two campaign events Monday was David Martosko from the Daily Mail of London. He had been scheduled to cover Clinton that day for the national press pool, a collective of news organizations that rotate covering the candidate at smaller events that cannot accommodate a large media pack.

The pool is organized by the participating media, not the Clinton campaign. The press pool dispatches are first shared by e-mail with the outlets participating in the rotation and then sent at the end of the day to all interested news outlets.

When Martosko showed up at Clinton's first event in Rochester, he said he was denied access inside the YMCA by a "Secret Service agent." Later in the day, Clinton aides again denied Martosko access to an evening fund-raiser for the Manchester City Democratic Committee that the candidate attended.

Nick Merrill, a Clinton campaign spokesman, said the campaign has received "blowback" from foreign outlets. Foreign outlets have been denied access to some Clinton events because the campaign wants to give preference to US publications.

"We need to rethink it all, maybe for a day," Merrill told Martosko in the morning, according to the reporter's e-mailed account of the conversation, "and just cool things off until we can have a discussion."

The Boston Globe, which participates in the Clinton traveling press pool, had access to Clinton's events Monday because a reporter from the paper was selected as a member of a local pool. The Globe's circulation area includes New Hampshire.


Additionally, several other national outlets were invited to the pooled events, along with wire services, which typically are always with the candidate.

Clinton's team has worked to foster a friendlier relationship with the press during her second run for the White House. But compared with other presidential candidates, media access to Clinton has been minimal.

This weekend, she was interviewed for the first time in her campaign by local news outlets, nearly two months after she started her run.

James Pindell can be reached at James.Pindell@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jamespindell. Annie Linskey is at annie.linskey@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @annielinskey.