Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images(BALTIMORE) — The unrest in Baltimore has sparked reaction from 2016 presidential candidates and likely contenders.

Riots and looting broke out in Baltimore on Monday following memorial services for Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old African-American man who died earlier this month while in police custody.

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton tweeted Monday night, expressing hopes for peace and justice.

Martin O’Malley, a former mayor of Baltimore and a likely Democratic challenger to Clinton, cut short a trip to Ireland to return to Baltimore amid the unrest.

“I’m saddened that the city I love is in such pain this night,” the former Maryland governor said in a statement Monday night. “All of us share a profound feeling of grief for Freddie Gray and his family. We must come together as one city to transform this moment of loss and pain into a safer and more just future for all of Baltimore’s people.”

I’m saddened that the City I love is in such pain this night. All of us share a profound feeling of grief for Freddie Gray & his family(1/2)

— Martin O’Malley (@GovernorOMalley) April 27, 2015

We must come together as one City to transform this moment of loss & pain into a safer & more just future for all of Baltimore’s people(2/2)

— Martin O’Malley (@GovernorOMalley) April 27, 2015

Upon his return to Baltimore, O’Malley spokesperson Lis Smith said “he has been reaching out to community leaders, the mayor, and members of the clergy to offer his assistance where appropriate and needed.”

Ted Cruz issued a statement condemning the destruction in Baltimore, while also calling for justice for Freddie Gray.

“Every case deserves justice, and the facts surrounding Freddie Gray’s death should be thoroughly and impartially investigated. But rioting and mayhem are not the answer,” the Republican presidential candidate and Texas senator said.

“Likewise, the small number of those who have wreaked destruction upon Baltimore over the past few days are not emblematic of the thousands of honest, hard-working families who are proud to call the city home,” Cruz continued in the statement.

Ben Carson, an expected Republican candidate and retired neurosurgeon from Baltimore, condemned the destruction of businesses as senseless and defended the Baltimore Police Department.

“We need to get to the bottom of any problems of discrimination, but the larger issue here is, how do you react when something is wrong?” Carson, an African-American, said in an interview with GQ. “If you have an unpleasant experience with a plumber, do you go out and declare a war on all plumbers?”

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, also an expected Republican presidential candidate, took to Twitter to express his solidarity with Maryland and relay the details of his state’s efforts to provide support, which include sending New Jersey State Police to back up Maryland’s policing efforts.

I spoke directly with Maryland Governor @LarryHogan last night and let him know that New Jersey is offering our full support & solidarity…

— Governor Christie (@GovChristie) April 28, 2015

…in their efforts to protect the lives and well-being of the people in the city of Baltimore while calm and order are being restored.

— Governor Christie (@GovChristie) April 28, 2015

Following my conversation with Gov @LarryHogan, the @NJSP placed an assessment team on the ground in Maryland.

— Governor Christie (@GovChristie) April 28, 2015

And our full deployment of @NJSP will unfold later today to help ensure a peaceful resolution for the city and people of Baltimore.

— Governor Christie (@GovChristie) April 28, 2015

There will be a deployment of 150 @NJSP and personnel and 100 of those troopers will provide operational support.

— Governor Christie (@GovChristie) April 28, 2015

Approximately 50 enlisted and civilian personnel will provide investigative and logistical support.

— Governor Christie (@GovChristie) April 28, 2015

.@NJSP will be on the ground for the initial term of 72 hours, as per the request from Maryland.

— Governor Christie (@GovChristie) April 28, 2015

Real estate mogul Donald Trump, who is once again flirting with entering the presidential contest as a Republican candidate, criticized the Baltimore mayor and police department for their handling of the situation.

Wow, 15 policemen hurt in Baltimore, some badly! Where is the National Guard. Police must get tough, and fast! Thugs must be stopped.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 28, 2015

Blatant and rampant property destruction in Baltimore as the police stand by and watch. Should be a lesson on how NOT to handle riots. SAD!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 28, 2015

Now that the ineffective Baltimore Police have allowed the city to be destroyed, are the U.S. taxpayers expected to rebuild it (again)?

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 28, 2015

The Mayor of Baltimore said she wanted to give the rioters “space to destroy” – another real genius!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 28, 2015

Our country has to come together. We have to start working with, and really liking, each other. The whole world is watching Baltimore.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 28, 2015

Trump also challenged President Obama to personally go to Baltimore to help broker peace.

Our great African American President hasn’t exactly had a positive impact on the thugs who are so happily and openly destroying Baltimore!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 28, 2015

President Obama, you have a big job to do. Go to Baltimore and bring both sides together. With proper leadership, it can be done! Do it.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 28, 2015

Wisconsin’s Republican Gov. Scott Walker, who has yet to announce his intentions in the race for president, sent out a simple tweet, saying he is praying for Baltimore.

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SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — President Obama welcomed Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to the White House for a formal visit on Tuesday, highlighting the foundation of the two nations’ efforts to maintain a strong alliance.

“The United States has renewed our leadership in the Asia Pacific,” Obama said during a ceremony on the White House’s South Lawn. “Prime Minister Abe is leading Japan to a new role on the world stage. The foundation of both efforts is a strong U.S.-Japan alliance.”

The president called Japan “one of America’s closest allies in the world.”

Tuesday, Obama said, was an opportunity for Americans to say thank you for all of the things we love from Japan, “like karate, karaoke, manga and anime, and of course emojis.”

But the meeting between the two leaders was also a very significant one, Obama explained. “In 1960, President Eisenhower welcomed Prime Minister Abe’s grandfather, Prime Minister Kishi, here to the White House.” where “they signed the security treaty that endures to this day.”

“Ours is an alliance focused on the future,” Obama continued, “the security of our nations and the world, trade that is fair and free, and the equal opportunity and human rights of all people.”

Through a translator, Abe said he looked forward to his discussion with Obama on the global challenges facing the two nations. “Japan will be at the forefront with the United States in addressing regional and global challenges while developing our bilateral ties with the United States in a consistent manner,” he said.

“With and for each other,” Obama said, referencing a Japanese phrase, “this is the essence of the alliance between the United States and Japan, an alliance that holds lessons for the world.”

Among the topics the two leaders are expected to discuss are their nations’ commitments to coordinate on fighting climate change and the Trans-Pacific Partnership — a potential trade agreement that would grow American trade with the Asia Pacific Region.

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Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Just hours before the U.S. Supreme Court was set to hear historic oral arguments that could legalize same-sex marriage nationwide, Hillary Clinton took to social media to make her stance clear.

In a sign of solidarity, the Democratic presidential candidate Tuesday morning tweeted her support of same-sex marriage, saying that “every loving couple and family deserves to be recognized and treated equally under the law.”

She also changed both her Twitter and Facebook avatars to a rainbow-themed version of her campaign slogan.

Clinton recently shifted her position on the issue of same-sex marriage slightly.

In an interview last summer, Clinton said while she supports same-sex marriage, the issue “had always been a matter left to the states.” In a statement released via a spokeswoman earlier this month, Clinton now said she hopes it would become a “constitutional right.”

“Hillary Clinton supports marriage equality and hopes the Supreme Court will come down on the side of same-sex couples being guaranteed that constitutional right,” Hillary for America spokeswoman Adrienne Elrod said in a statement to ABC News.

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ABC News(WASHINGTON) — Jim Obergefell’s case will affect the marriage laws under which about 200 million Americans live, but the reason he sued his home state of Ohio was very personal: To make state bureaucracy recognize him as the widower of his late partner of 21 years, John Arthur.

They were legally married in Maryland just a few months before John died in 2013 — but in 2004, Ohio voters had amended their state constitution to prohibit gay marriage from being “valid in or recognized by” the Buckeye State. On Tuesday, Obergefell’s lawyer will argue his case before the Supreme Court.

The potential monetary benefits for Obergefell of winning his lawsuit are small: He says Ohio’s recognition of his marriage would bring with it $255 in Social Security benefits, and potentially a small disability benefit when he retires.

“That was never our driving reason for doing this,” he told ABC News, explaining that “it was all about our dignity and the respect we expect from the state we call home.”

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Still, proponents and opponents of same-sex marriage agree: more than one man’s dignity is at stake. One of the two questions about gay marriage currently being considered by the Supreme Court will be answered for the whole country based on whether the justices think Jim Obergefell is in the right.

The first question the high court will consider is, “does the Constitution prohibit states from discriminating between gay and straight couples for purposes of marriage?” If the answer is yes, then Obergefell will get what he wants, of course.

But the court is considering another question, too, and it’s that question that Obergefell’s case poses directly, because Obergefell and Arthur got married in a state where gay marriage was legal (Maryland) but lived somewhere it wasn’t (Ohio). That second question is, “if the Constitution doesn’t require states to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples, does it at least require every state to recognize same-sex marriages consecrated in another state?”

If the Supreme Court says no to the first question it could still say “yes” to Obergefell, and force Ohio to recognize the Maryland marriage — and write Jim Obergefell onto his husband’s death certificate.

Obergefell sat down with ABC News to tell the story of his long relationship, short marriage, and how he went from grieving partner to unlikely activist.

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Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Newly sworn-in Attorney General Loretta Lynch on Monday night issued a statement calling the clashes between protesters and police in Baltimore “senseless acts of violence.”

“I condemn the senseless acts of violence by some individuals in Baltimore that have resulted in harm to law enforcement officers, destruction of property and a shattering of the peace in the city of Baltimore,” Lynch said in her statement. “Those who commit violent actions, ostensibly in protest of the death of Freddie Gray, do a disservice to his family, to his loved ones, and to legitimate peaceful protestors who are working to improve their community for all its residents.”

Earlier in the day, after being sworn in as the successor to outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder, Lynch briefed President Obama on the situation in Baltimore.

The Department of Justice is currently investigating Gray’s death.

Obama also spoke with Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake about the situation, offering assistance as needed. White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett spoke with Maryland Governor Larry Hogan.

“As our investigative process continues,” Lynch concluded, “I strongly urge every member of the Baltimore community to adhere to the principles of nonviolence.”

Lynch also vowed to work with leaders in Baltimore to protect the “security and civil rights of all residence.” She also promised to “bring the full resources of the Department of Justice to bear in protecting those under threat, investigating wrongdoing, and securing an end to violence.”

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Kentucky same-sex supporters pose, as pastor Rick Grogan from Fort Worth, TX, an opponent, seated, looks on. ABC News(WASHINGTON) — The scene outside the Supreme Court Monday felt a lot like a football game tailgate party — and for supporters and opponents of same-sex marriage who have spent days camped out to score a seat, Tuesday’s oral arguments are the Super Bowl.

The justices will hear arguments on two related questions: one, whether states must allow same-sex couples to marry; and two, whether states must recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere.

There were at least sixty groups — mainly supporters, but also some opponents — who had been waiting on the corner of First and East Capitol Streets for days, hoping for a coveted chair inside the courtroom.

Frank Colasonti Jr. and his husband James Ryder of Birmingham, Michigan, were among the first in line. They said they had been there since Friday evening, snoozing in sleeping bags and hiding under tarps when it rained. But the partners for 27 years, husbands for the last one, said this argument was too important not to try to attend.

“We really never thought …” Colasonti said before getting choked up.

“We really never thought we’d see it in our lifetime,” Ryder said, finishing his husband’s sentence.

“It really never seemed like an option that it would ever happen,” he continued, noting that they had filed their income taxes jointly for the first time this year.

The couple was among some 300 spouses who married on a single day in 2014 when Michigan’s gay marriage ban was temporarily lifted. Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder later said he would not contest the validity of those marriages, although the ban was reinstated.

Michigan is one of four states arguing in favor of their same-sex marriage bans. The others are Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee.

Besides the many same-sex couples and their families who flocked from those states, there were many law students who wanted to see a case that future classes will likely study.

“However this is decided it’s going to be one of the most iconic and well-read cases in casebooks so this is going to be really exciting to be here,” Wyatt Fore, a third-year law student at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, said. He said he had been in place, lawn chair and law books in tow, since Friday night.

Emotions and opinions on both sides of Tuesday’s arguments run high, but at this unique gathering of legal minds, students, same-sex couples and pastors, the tendency is to live and let live — or in this case, wait and let wait.

Pastor Rick Grogan of Fort Worth, Texas, acknowledged that he was one of the few opponents of same-sex marriage camped out, a buoy in a sea of Human Rights Campaign banners and rainbow flags.

“You’ve got, what, 20-something states who have banned it in their constitution. Now, nine people are going to tell the whole nation what to do,” he said, sprawled on a blanket with an opened Bible in his hand.

But he said the discourse among his neighbors had been respectful. After all, if people toss footballs around during a pregame tailgate, why wouldn’t they engage in elevated debate before a Supreme Court argument?

“Even though people disagree, it’s been pleasant so far,” Grogan said.

As he spoke, a group of same-sex marriage supporters from Kentucky posed for a group picture, just steps away.

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KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Just hours after President Obama used his appearance at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner to call for the release of an American journalist held prisoner in Iran, another American held at the same prison was taunted by Iranian prison guards who told him the president did not mention his name, his family said.

The prisoner, Marine Corps veteran Amir Hekmati, called his mother over the weekend from the notorious Evin prison in Tehran, terrified that gaining his release is not a priority for the U.S. government, his family said. Now, in an emotional letter to the White House, Amir’s sister is demanding to know why the president has never said her brother’s name in public. He has been imprisoned for nearly four years.

“He has already been mistreated, abused, and tortured,” writes Sarah Hekmati, Amir’s sister, in a letter to White House counter-terrorism advisor Lisa Monaco. “Now the mental torture continues as he is made to feel that the country he put his life on the line for, the one he defended, and the president he voted for has left him behind and are not actively trying to secure his freedom.”

Of the three Americans known to be imprisoned in Iran, Hekmati has been held the longest. He was arrested in 2011 when, according to his family, he was visiting his ailing grandmother in Iran. He was sentenced to death in January 2012 for “espionage, waging war against God and corrupting the earth.”

President Obama spoke out for the release of American journalist Jason Rezaian at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, and earlier this year he spoke out for the release of Pastor Saeed Abedini at the National Prayer Breakfast. The Hekmati family said they have repeatedly asked the White House to push for Amir Hekmati’s release.

“Why has President Obama yet to utter the name Amir Hekmati?” his sister wrote. “Why on days significant for Amir — Memorial Day, Veteran’s Day, the anniversary of his death sentence, the anniversary of his imprisonment — President Obama cannot say the name Amir Hekmati out loud, but he can say it for Jason Rezaian and he can say it for Pastor Abedini? Why when we make a request is it ignored? Why am I forced to write this email to you AGAIN, the same subject AGAIN, the same plea AGAIN?”

ABC News posed her questions to the White House Monday and was told by Press Secretary Josh Earnest that “each case and the efforts that we’re undertaking to secure their release is treated independently.”

“Certainly when considering how best to secure the release of these individuals, a calculation is made about the wisdom of the publicity that surrounds the efforts to secure their release,” Earnest said.

The president did mention Hekmati in a March written statement about the U.S. citizens detained or missing in Iran and personally raised Hekmati’s case during a phone call with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in September 2013, but he has never mentioned his name or his case in any of his public remarks.

“The concern for the well-being of those individuals is shared by everybody here at the White House. We’ve made clear what those concerns are to the Iranian government. And we’re going to continue the effort to try to secure the release and safe return of these individuals,” Earnest said.

Meanwhile, the Hekmati family waits for answers.

“Please spare us this dignity and give us a straightforward answer as to why in nearly 4 years President Obama has [not] raised Amir’s plight individually outside of the context of the others imprisoned. Not even once. Not even when he was sentenced to death. The only question at this point is why,” Sarah Hekmati wrote.

The Hekmati family plans to bring attention to Amir’s plight on Capitol Hill later this week with television personality Montel Williams, who has championed their cause.

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The White House(WASHINGTON) — The state dinner on Tuesday for Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will be a celebration of “a long-awaited spring” and the long-awaited Obama china.

Guests at the lavish dinner will be treated to toro tartare, Wagyu tenderloin and silken custard cake prepared by famed chef Masaharu Morimoto, all served on the newly unveiled 11-piece Obama state china.

It took three and a half years and countless consultations to design the new service, which is manufactured by Pickard China of Antioch, Illinois, according to White House officials.

“For a new state china service, First Lady Michelle Obama wanted it to have modern elements, but also for it to be practical, in the sense that it would be complementary to the preceding historic state services,” according to the White House.

The Obama china stands out, in part for the teal blue band of color around each plate, a hue that the White House has dubbed “Kailua Blue,” a nod to the president’s home state of Hawaii. The service also includes an individual tureen, “a form not found in other White House services.”

The purchase of the china was funded by a special donation from the White House Endowment Trust of the White House Historical Association, a private, nonprofit organization.

The china will be showcased at Tuesday’s dinner, set on cheery blue tablecloths, surrounding bright pink bouquets of orchids and cherry blossoms, officials said. The spring theme will be further underscored by a curtain of crystals hanging in the State Dining Room to represent the spring rain.

Guests will enjoy a menu that “fuses traditional American cuisine with a Japanese influence,” according to the White House, including a classic American Caesar salad with a Japanese twist (literally, the salad is wrapped in a clear acetate and tied with a mizuhiki cord “emulating a gift to be opened”).

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Memorial Service for US journalistr James Foley, executed by ISIS. Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Stung by harsh criticism from relatives of American hostages killed by terrorists in recent months, the Obama White House is moving to create a government office to coordinate incident response, which will likely include a “Family Engagement Team,” a senior U.S. official told ABC News Sunday.

The likely White House move is in anticipation of findings and recommendations by a hostage police review team from the U.S. National Counterterrorism Center expected to be delivered to President Obama in the next few weeks.

“In response to what we have heard from family members, we are considering the establishment of a working-level, operationally-focused coordinating Fusion Cell to ensure a whole-of-government response to overseas hostage events,” said the senior official familiar with the review. “We are also considering the establishment of a Family Engagement Team as a permanent part of the Fusion Cell, to ensure that families have full-time and direct access to professionals who can provide timely information and other necessary support during and after a hostage crisis.”

Justice Department family engagement liaisons played an essential role in the Zacarias Moussaoui 9/11 trial proceedings in 2006. Pentagon outreach teams have helped families of those killed in the terror attacks stay informed and attend hearings since 2008 at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba for five defendants charged in the al Qaeda plot. What is now being proposed will be a government-wide team of experts.

The top government engagement issue for many hostages’ families has been strict U.S. policy forbidding ransom payments. Some foreign governments do not share such a policy and at times bow to hostage-taker demands, a practice that fans controversy over whether such payments encourage even more kidnappings.

On Sunday, ABC News reported that three senior officials said last week that one key recommendation expected to be made to the White House by Army Lt. Gen. Bennet Sacolick, who is leading the NCTC review team, is to ensure that the U.S. government communicates better with families and doesn’t interfere with those who attempt to pay ransom to kidnappers. The U.S. will not support such efforts and officially will not negotiate, pay ransoms or give “concessions” to kidnappers, in keeping with federal anti-terrorism laws — but would in effect look the other way if hostages’ families do so on their own, the officials said.

Last summer, a military officer working at the National Security Council and a State Department official repeatedly told several families of ISIS hostages in Syria such as journalist James Foley that they could be prosecuted for supporting terrorism if they paid ransoms to the terror group. Many European hostages had been successfully ransomed a year ago but all four Americans were eventually killed in captivity, along with five other prisoners murdered in high-profile ISIS videos.

“We were told at that point that there was going to be no intervention, there was going to be no negotiation, and that no ransom would be paid — and, if in fact, we attempted to raise the money and pay it we would be potentially prosecuted. So that was pretty upsetting,” James Foley’s father John said on ABC News’ World News Tonight Sunday.

James Foley, a freelance war reporter, was brutally beheaded in a video released by ISIS on Aug. 19, 2014, which shocked the world.

ISIS had demanded $130 million and rarely responded to communications overseen by the family’s privately-hired team of experienced former law enforcement officials. The Foleys said donors willing to help any of the families raising ransom in the future also should not have to fear being charged with supporting terrorism.

“It’s only a baby step, it’s a tiny step. If the government can’t help, I would hope that families would be free from prosecution of getting their loved ones home,” Diane Foley, who was deeply involved in the private effort to find and free her son, told ABC News on Sunday.

She said Lt. Gen. Sacolick had informed her that no family will ever face such threats again from their own government for trying to free a loved one. No one has ever been prosecuted for trying to pay ransom, law enforcement officials have noted. The Foleys also pressed Obama directly in a conversation last week to accept the review team’s recommendations.

“No one was accountable for the return of Jim or for helping us to get a strategy in place to bring him home. We talked to so many people at the State Department, FBI, and within the Senate, but none of them could point to any one person whose mission it was to bring Jim home,” she said.

“The previous ‘no negotiation’ policy has been interpreted as no communication, no talk, so I think there’s a huge deficit along the way, from doing nothing to being able to talk to captors,” John Foley added. “Negotiation doesn’t mean that we would say ‘yes’ to everything, but it does mean that we would be able to have a dialogue with captors, and who knows what might come out of that?”

Besides the Americans killed by ISIS in Syria, one American and a South African were killed during a hostage rescue attempt by Navy SEALs in Yemen in December. American Warren Weinstein and an Italian hostage, Giovanni Lo Porto, were killed accidentally in a CIA drone strike targeting al Qaeda in Pakistan in January. A person familiar with Weinstein’s ordeal said the family attempted to pay around $250,000 to the men believed to be holding him, but nothing came of it before he was killed.

Beyond the Obama administration’s anticipated efforts following the deaths of James Foley and some of the other Americans, the Foley family created the James W. Foley Legacy Foundation to help hostages’ families navigate official government waters.

For its part, the White House in letters from counterterrorism advisor Lisa Monaco invited 82 families and former hostages dating back to 2001 to participate in the NCTC review. Interviews with 40 people have been conducted by the NCTC team so far, the senior official said.

“We understand this is incredibly difficult and painful for the families and we appreciate their feedback. The feedback each family member and former hostage provided has been invaluable and helped us examine ways to improve our processes and communicate with the families most effectively to achieve our shared objective of ensuring the safe return of a loved one,” the senior official told ABC News.

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Getty Images(DES MOINES, Iowa) — Hillary Clinton wrote an op-ed in The Des Moines Register Monday, reflecting on the stories and ideas she heard from Iowans during her visit to the Hawkeye State.

“When I came to Iowa, I wanted to do something a little different. No big speeches or rallies. Just talking directly with everyday Iowans,” she began her op-ed. “Because this campaign isn’t going to be about me, it’s going to be about Iowans and people across our country who are ready for a better future.”

“It’s not enough to just get by, you deserve to get ahead and stay ahead. And everywhere I went, I met Iowans with great ideas for how we can get there,” the Democratic presidential candidate added.

Clinton went on to describe four such Iowans she met during her trip and the stories they shared with her. She then laid out some issues she plans to take on during her campaign:

“We can build an economy for tomorrow, not yesterday, where being middle class means something again. We can strengthen families and communities, because when families get ahead, our country gets ahead, too. We can fix our dysfunctional political system and get unaccountable money out of it once and for all, even if that takes a constitutional amendment. And we can protect our country from the threats that we see around the world and ones that are still over the horizon.”

The former secretary of state said these are “four big fights I’m taking on for you, but I can’t do it alone.”

“We’ve got to tackle this together. We need to build on the success, the hard work and the innovation I found in Iowa,” Clinton wrote.

She concluded, “I will carry the stories and wisdom of the Iowans I met with me throughout the campaign and hopefully onto the White House. You are the reason I got into this race and I will work my heart out to earn your votes.”

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