By AMY CHOZICKSEPT. 5, 2016
Hillary Clinton and Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia on the campaign’s new charter plane on Monday in Cleveland. Credit Sam Hodgson for The New York Times
CLEVELAND — The general election began in earnest on Monday, not with the first presidential debate or the start of early voting, but with the arrival of a squat Boeing 737 strewn with a shiny new coat of white paint and an “H” on its sky-blue tail.
The aircraft, with Hillary Clinton’s campaign slogan “Stronger Together” sprawled across its side and specially outfitted for a presidential candidate, represented what Mrs. Clinton called “the last moment before the mad dash.”
For months, Mrs. Clinton had crisscrossed the country on her own plane, cocooned with aides at 36,000 feet as the journalists who cover her campaign trailed in their own chartered jet, with clouds and sky and seemingly infinite space between the two.
The flying arrangement broke with an age-old campaign tradition of the “Boys on the Bus” (or the plane), and with Mrs. Clinton’s flight patterns in 2008 when she drank wine with reporters on the “Hill Force One.” This time, the separate planes became a symbol of Mrs. Clinton’s caution and aloofness toward the news media in her second shot at the White House.
But midmorning on Monday in White Plains, N.Y., Mrs. Clinton, aides, Secret Service agents and, yes, the news media all boarded the newly designed Boeing 737, which carried the whole motley crew on a maiden voyage, to Labor Day events in Cleveland and Hampton, Ill.
A view from inside the plane as it flew over the Hudson River en route to Ohio. Credit Sam Hodgson for The New York Times
Mrs. Clinton, who sat with aides in the front of the plane, wasted no time sauntering down the cramped aisles, past her staff and Secret Service agents, to deliver a welcome message to the reporters on board.
“I am so happy to have all of you with me,” Mrs. Clinton said, stretching out the word “so” for a couple of syllables. “I’ve been just waiting for this moment.”
After a couple of weeks of fund-raising with a scant campaign schedule, a rested Mrs. Clinton did appear to be eager for the moment, if not for the new proximity of the news media, and for what the end of the summer meant.
There were just 63 days until Election Day, a number Mrs. Clinton, who has appeared a human countdown clock lately, used in Cleveland to open her first rally of the day.
Taking a sip of water and trying to ease a coughing fit, Mrs. Clinton tried to laugh it off, saying she was “allergic” to Donald J. Trump, her rival and the Republican presidential nominee.
Mrs. Clinton took questions from reporters on the plane. Credit Sam Hodgson for The New York Times
In a thumping ode to labor unions, Mrs. Clinton vowed at the rally to create jobs and contrasted her plan to Mr. Trump’s business practices. “He hired a union-busting firm to break up an organizing campaign at his hotel in Las Vegas,” Mrs. Clinton told a crowd of supporters gathered in Luke Easter Park in a heavily African-American area of Cleveland. Organizers with clipboards registered voters and children played in a bouncy castle set up on the park’s grounds.
Buttressing Mrs. Clinton’s cheery mood was her running mate, Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia. The two had not campaigned together since a bus tour in July after the Democratic National Convention. “This is a big day,” Mr. Kaine said in Cleveland. “As I think you know, Labor Day sort of starts the homestretch.”
Mr. Kaine discreetly climbed up the back stairway of the “Stronger Together” plane in Cleveland so he and Mrs. Clinton could come down the stairs together, waving at onlookers who sweltered in the Ohio heat. At the same time, another iconic aircraft, that of Mr. Trump and embellished with his surname on its side, also sat on the tarmac. “Just shows you how important Ohio is,” Mr. Kaine said of the coincidental landings.
Mr. Trump, not one to be outdone in flashy news media displays, invited a group of reporters onto his plane, chatting with them throughout the brief flight from Cleveland to Youngstown, Ohio.
Mrs. Clinton, appearing enamored with the campaign’s newest slogan, “Stronger Together,” made clear that it was not just a catchphrase painted on the side of a plane. Simon & Schuster has published a book called “Stronger Together” that lays out a “blueprint” of the Clinton-Kaine policy proposals.
Aboard Hillary Clinton’s New Plane
When she ventured back to greet reporters, she held up a copy of the book, and, like a sales pitch on TV, reminded the news media that the policy book hits stores on Tuesday. A campaign spokesman said the proceeds would go to charity.
The new plane even gave Mrs. Clinton a chance to needle Mr. Trump for following her belated lead in bringing reporters on board.
“I heard that now that we’ve got this great plane, that Donald Trump actually invited his press on his plane,” Mrs. Clinton, balancing in the aisle with a hand perched on the back of a seat, told reporters on the second flight of Labor Day campaign events, from Cleveland to Moline, Ill.
The roughly 40 reporters, camera operators and photographers piled up into the aisle, their boom microphones, lenses and voice recorders extended toward the Democratic nominee, eager for every parcel of news.
Banana peels, cocktail napkins printed with a blue “H” and power cords already littered the plane, which had a full makeover of modifications at factories in Roswell, N.M., and Amarillo, Tex. The campaign called the paint color “scion blue,” and it appeared similar in hue to some of Mrs. Clinton’s favorite suits.
Toward the end of the day, Mrs. Clinton appeared comfortable with the arrangement, even managing to connect the new plane to Mr. Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns. “I would hope he continues and releases his tax returns,” she said. “That would be the best way to demonstrate his commitment to the level of disclosure expected of someone running for president.”
“So with that,” she said, flashing a mischievous grin, “I’d love to take your questions.”