From NBC/NJ's Athena Jones
NEW HAVEN, Conn. -- The day before 22 states hold the closest thing to a national primary anyone has seen, Hillary Clinton's first public event was a small roundtable with 11 women.
It was at the Yale Child Study Center where the senator worked during law school. (As the event began, the audience was reminded that the university does not endorse candidates.)
The crowd gave a standing ovation when the senator walked in. "Oh this is so nostalgic," Clinton said
Penn Rhodeen, Clinton's supervisor during her time at the center, introduced the senator, hailing her work on behalf of children. He seemed to get a little choked up as he spoke, saying she had always been and would always be a champion for children. After he spoke, Clinton joked that she had said she wouldn't tear up, but that already it wasn't looking good. Her eyes had misted up a bit, but there were no actual tears.
She spent several minutes reminiscing about her arrival at Yale in 1969, her work for the Children's Defense Fund and on education and healthcare reform in Arkansas, before opening up the floor to a discussion with the women whose concerns focused on healthcare, daycare, mental health, housing issues and jobs.
Clinton talked about her plan for universal health care and asked the participants to share their concerns. "People talk about small businesses being the engine of the economy, but we're stuck," said Lynne Kudzy, a small business owner from Stamford. "I can't grow this company the way I want to and the real force that's keeping me from growing is the cost of healthcare."
Clinton called universal health coverage the morally and economically right thing to do. About an hour into the event, the senator had a cough attack and briefly lost her voice, which has been weak in recent days. She told an audience in Minnesota Sunday that she had been talking a lot and sleeping very little.
The senator was able to regain her voice later on and spent some time toward the end taking questions from the audience. She talked about child care issues and the sense of guilt she sometimes felt as she tried to balance work and family, while plugging her plan for universal pre-kindergarten programs.
The timing of the event seemed odd, considering it was the day before contests in so many states. Her campaign said the forum had focused on issues that were a major theme of her campaign and that this was part of the conversation with voters she said she wanted to have at the beginning of her campaign.
Her campaign said she'd spent the early part of the morning doing radio interviews and was headed to Worcester, Mass., and Boston later in the day and then to New York for a Letterman taping and a virtual, multi-state town hall.