By Jonathan Allen
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton stages the first big rally of her presidential campaign on Saturday, trying to cast herself as a fighter for ordinary Americans and build a clearer case for why she wants to lead the country.
Running to be the first female president, Clinton will trumpet her record on women's rights and talk about her mother's tough upbringing in a speech to thousands of supporters on New York's Roosevelt Island.
The former first lady is also expected to outline her policies on economic issues such as trade and Wall Street reform that could trip her up as she fends off primary challenges from liberal Democrats.
The outdoor rally marks a change in gear for Clinton who has based her campaigning so far on small events with selected participants in early voting states such as Iowa.
Now she is aiming to connect with a larger audience and disprove critics who see her as a member of the political elite
who is out of touch with regular voters.
Clinton will argue that ordinary Americans whose hard work brought the country through recession should be rewarded as the economy strengthens, her campaign says.
"People will see she is going to lay out a progressive agenda for America," Jennifer Palmieri, the Clinton campaign communications director, said in an onstage interview with Politico.
Campaign manager Robby Mook, at the same event, dismissed recent polls showing a majority of voters find Clinton untrustworthy.
Keen to craft a personal narrative that does not focus heavily on her many years in Washington, Clinton will talk about the lessons she learned from her mother Dorothy Rodham who was abandoned as a child but grew up without bitterness.
Clinton's speech might indicate whether she will move to the left on economic issues to counter Democratic primary challengers Senator Bernie Sanders and former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley.
Although she is well ahead of the pair in polls, Sanders appears to be gaining traction in Iowa. He has called on Clinton to say clearly whether she supports giving President Barack Obama "fast-track" trade authority.
Trade is a divisive issue for Democrats, and members of the president's party rebelled at a vote in the House of Representatives on Friday, delivering a blow to his signature goal of strengthening ties with Asia.
Clinton has also talked tough against the financial industry on the campaign trail, calling for a raise in the tax rates paid by hedge fund managers, although many of her big campaign donors are from Wall Street.
(Writing by Alistair Bell; Editing by Ken Wills)