By Alistair Bell
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton will put the fight for higher wages for "everyday Americans" at the heart of her economic agenda on Monday, when she makes the first major policy speech in her White House bid.
Clinton will argue that ensuring middle-class wages rise steadily along with executive salaries and company profits is the defining economic challenge of our time, her campaign said.
With one eye on the growing support for socialist Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who is also seeking the Democratic nomination, Clinton will lay out her economic vision in the address at The New School university in Manhattan's Greenwich Village at 10 a.m. EDT.
She will unveil specifics in a series of speeches in the coming weeks as Democrats seek more details of her plans on increasing the minimum wage, creating universal preschool and investing in infrastructure.
Putting some meat on the bones of her economic policy could divert the focus away from issues that are dragging on Clinton's popularity, like the controversy over her use of a private email account while she was President Barack Obama's secretary of state.
"I think substance is her friend on the campaign because she has credibility as a substantive person, with extensive experience. Thoughtful, innovative proposals are going to help her," said Democratic strategist Bill Carrick.
Clinton is the favorite to win the Democratic nomination for the November 2016 presidential election but Sanders has drawn large crowds at campaign events in Iowa.
Wall Street will be watching Clinton's speech closely for hints of whether she will call for tougher financial regulation as her campaign develops. Rivals Sanders and Martin O'Malley, the former Maryland governor, have urged a breakup of big banks but Clinton has not done so.
The former first lady will say that technology has created new business opportunities but also threatens to kill middle-class jobs, benefits and protections.
Clinton is likely to dismiss, at least indirectly, a pledge by leading Republican candidate Jeb Bush who says he will virtually double the U.S. economy's annual growth rate to 4 percent.
Republican presidential hopeful Carly Fiorina, a former Silicon Valley chief executive, said Clinton would damage businesses and fail to close the income gap.
"Every policy she is pursuing will make income inequality worse, not better, crony capitalism even worse, not better. And meanwhile, we will continue to crush the businesses that create jobs and middle-class families," Fiorina told ABC’s “This Week"
television show on Sunday.
(Additional reporting by Jonathan Allen; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)