Hillary Rodham Clinton joked about her age and being a bottle blonde Wednesday, telling a group of Democratic women that at least she wouldn’t go gray in the White House like most presidents because she already dyes her hair.
She deployed the one-liner at an event in Columbia, South Carolina, bringing up the age issue herself early in the race and attempting to diffuse it with a hearty laugh.
“I’m aware I may not be the youngest candidate in this race, but I have one advantage: I’ve been coloring my hair for years,” said Mrs. Clinton. “They are not going to see me turn white in the White House — and you’re also not going to see me shrink from a fight.”
The joke drew laughs and big applause from the crowd at the annual “Day in Blue” luncheon for the South Carolina House Democratic Women’s Caucus and the South Carolina Democratic Women’s Council, where Mrs. Clinton delivered the keynote address.
Still, Mrs. Clinton will be 69 years old on Inauguration Day in 2017, making her one of the oldest presidents in U.S. history if she wins the race. Only former President Ronald Reagan was older — by eight months.
Reagan also brushed aside the age issue with a joke, famously quipping during a 1984 debate with Democratic rival Walter Mondale that he would “not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent’s youth and inexperience.”
Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, 52, who is expected to enter the Democratic race for president Saturday, has taken some veiled swipes at Mrs. Clinton’s age or at least her role as part of the old guard in American politics.
He recently said that voters are “yearning [for] the next generation of Americans who want a new perspective and … to solve those problems with new leadership and new perspective.”
Like the rest of her speech, Mrs. Clinton’s one-liner was tailored to a female audience and women voters whose support will be key to the success of her presidential run.
She also didn’t miss the chance to bring up her status as a grandmother, a fact she touts at every opportunity as she attempts to forge connections with women voters on a personal level.
Speaking about the difficulties faced by American families, with parents working multiple jobs and struggling to find the time to attend to their children, Mrs. Clinton said that she was lucky she is able to help raise her granddaughter.
“I happen to be extremely lucky, because my amazing 8-month-old granddaughter lives near me, so I get to see her a lot,” she said. “But nobody expects everything to come easy. That’s part of life. We know that. But it shouldn’t be quite so hard to get ahead and stay ahead in America.”
Mrs. Clinton said that she would make equal pay for women a centerpiece of her campaign.
She promised to push for equal pay legislation, pay transparency laws that would force companies to disclose wage data and an increase to the federal minimum wage, which she said disproportionately hurts women — especially minority women.
“Too many women still earn less than men on the job. And women of color often make even less,” she said.
The former first lady, senator and secretary of state also railed against what she described as the “so-called motherhood penalty” that results in wage cuts for new moms.
Studies have shown that motherhood is associated with lower hourly wages. The cause of this phenomena has been difficult to pin down, though some likely reasons include loss of job experience, lower productivity at work, giving up higher wages for more mother-friendly jobs or discrimination by employers.
Mrs. Clinton pinned the blame on Republicans for women’s money woes.
“Now we could fix this if Republicans would get onboard. We in fact could fix this today, but they won’t,” she said.
Mrs. Clinton also went after her GOP rivals, without naming them, claiming they had said equal pay is a “bogus issue,” a “waste of time” and a law reminiscent of the “Soviet Union.”
The quotes were from Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, who are all polling well against Mrs. Clinton in various battleground states. The three Republicans all opposed taking up equal pay legislation, though the reasoning was more nuanced than reflected in the quotes cherry-picked by Mrs. Clinton.
Mrs. Clinton said the equal pay issue has far-reaching consequences for the economy.
“But, thankfully, the American people know the truth,” she said. “And the truth is that when any parent is shortchanged, the entire family is shortchanged, and when families are shortchanged, America is shortchanged, and, therefore, this is not a women’s issue, this is a family issue and an American economic issue.”