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Seeking to dispel rivals’ claims that she can’t bring needed change to Washington, Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton told supporters Sunday that her years in public life and willingness to seek common ground would produce real results as president.
“I know some people think you have to choose between change and experience. With me, you don’t have to choose,” she said at a rally here.
Clinton unveiled a new campaign speech in New Hampshire, as the Labor Day weekend signaled the start of a final four-month sprint before voting begins.
She outlined several goals she wanted to achieve as president — restoring American leadership in the world; rebuilding the middle class; reforming government; and “reclaiming the future” for children.
But the subtext of her speech was clear.
With Barack Obama and John Edwards struggling to narrow her lead in national and most state polls, both have tried to paint Clinton as a polarizing figure entrenched in the ways of Washington. They’ve also suggested she’s too cozy with special interests, after she defended her willingness to accept campaign contributions from lobbyists at a recent candidates’ forum.
Edwards has been particularly blunt. In a speech in New Hampshire last month, he depicted Clinton the candidate of the past and reminded voters of the fundraising scandals and other controversial aspects of her husband’s presidency.
Clinton’s new speech was an effort to reverse her rivals’ argument — saying her years as first lady and as a New York senator had given her the tools necessary to achieve real change.
“I’ve learned you bring change by working in the system established by Constitution. You can’t pretend the system doesn’t exist,” she said. “It’s not just about dreams, it’s about results. That’s what we need to do again — we need to dream big, and then get those dreams to be the reality in the lives of Americans.”
She cited President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s creation of social security and Lyndon Johnson’s press for the Voting Rights Act and the Great Society as examples of transformative policy enacted through compromise.
Clinton noted that much of her political success had come from winning over Republicans, as she did as a Senate candidate in upstate New York.
She vowed that if she is elected, she would ask distinguished Americans of both parties to travel the world before her inauguration to signal a new, more inclusive world view. But she said she would never compromise on key issues, such as abortion rights.
“Ultimately, to bring change, you have to know when to stand your ground, and when to find common ground,” she said. “You need to know when to stick to principles and fight, and know when to make principled compromises.”
As for the claim that she is too tight with special interests, Clinton said no one had more experience battling them than she did.
“I’ve been standing up to special interests and taking all their incoming fire for 15 years. And guess what, I’m still standing, and proud to fight every step of the way,” she said to cheers.
More forcefully than usual, Clinton also reminded the audience that she is running to be the first woman president. She spoke of meeting little girls and elderly women on the campaign trail who felt empowered by her candidacy.
“I believe that this nation can shatter the highest glass ceiling,” Clinton said.
Clinton’s two-day campaign swing with her husband, the former president, kicked off the latest phase of the calendar. The couple made three campaign appearances in New Hampshire before preparing to jet to Iowa for a full day of campaigning Monday.
Sunday afternoon, the Clintons visited the Hopkinton County Fair where they admired prize-winning cattle, sampled bowls of apple crisp and visited a giant pumpkin competition. “These are the biggest pumpkins I’ve ever seen,” Bill Clinton said, comparing them to giant watermelons grown in his home state of Arkansas.
As he has in the past, Bill Clinton thanked New Hampshire voters for making him the “comeback kid” in 1992. But he said the issues facing the country now were even more urgent than they were during his election.
In Portsmouth, he sought to knock down arguments that his wife wouldn’t be able to win a general election. He cited polling in several states showing her leading most Republicans in hypothetical matchups.
“This electabliity thing is a canard. It’s a hill of beans,” the former president said, adding he believed Americans would elect the best candidate.