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2016 presidential candidates ramp up their campaigns

Hillary Clinton to unveil economic strategy in New York and meet congressional Democrats in DC

As Hillary Clinton prepares to lay out her economic strategy this week, her biggest opponent in the Democratic race, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, is trying to distinguish himself from the former secretary of state. 

Sanders said of Clinton’s economic message during an interview with CBS’ “Face the Nation,” “I think the American people understand that establishment politics and establishment economics are not working for the middle class and working families of this country, and they want real change.”

Sanders says the middle class has seen a 40-year decline, with “people working longer hours for lower wages and having the highest rate of childhood poverty of any major country on earth, with a massive transfer of wealth from the middle class to the top one-tenth of 1 percent.”

He says he wants to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour.

Clinton said during an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union,” “I will be laying out my own economic policies. I think we have to both grow the economy faster and fairer, so we have to do what will actually work in the short term, the medium term and the long term.”

Her campaign says it will restructure the U.S. economy to help the middle class. After she unveils her economic strategy in New York, Clinton will head to Washington.

She will meet congressional Democrats this week, including members of the congressional Hispanic, Asian Pacific American and black caucuses. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, praised Clinton for the move. “We are a body of members that have diverse districts, and we are an important body of members, and might I say we’re reflective of America. So she is to be complimented for recognizing that. This is no time to not hear from people who are experienced and who are committed to this country and its values of democracy.”

During Al Jazeera America’s Sunday night segment The Week Ahead, Del Walters spoke to Basil Smikle, a former adviser to Clinton, about the campaigns.

Smikle said Clinton is going to Washington to secure a very important constituency. “Members of Congress control delegates. This is her opportunity to get support and actually try to talk about how her administration may be different [from President Barack Obama’s administration].

“Campaigns are organic organisms. They have a life, and you want to do things at a very specific time, because you’re waiting for a lot of factors that may involve just you. So her campaign, I’m sure, has a plan of how they’re going to bring out some of these policy issues, and in doing so you’ll get the kind of detail people are looking for.”

Asked about the similarities of Sanders’ campaign to Obama’s in 2008, Smikle said, “Presidential campaigns, in my mind, are about both symbolism and strategy. Barack Obama in 2008 was representing a significant component of the Democratic Party. Not to say Hillary Clinton didn’t or does not, but Bernie Sanders is doing something very similar. He’s representing a part of the party that wants to hear a very strong voice.”

On the issue of presidential candidates relating to the people they represent, Smikle said, “Not everybody can grow up the way I did, but what I do expect is that the people for whom I vote, that those individuals actually speak to the issues that I care about.”

He said he’s optimistic. “I am a good Democrat. This is family. So whoever wins, I think will be president of the United States coming out of a Democratic primary. We have a very strong party, and that is very important right now.”

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