Hillary Rodham Clinton maintained Sunday that she’s the best candidate to win against Republicans, saying she has more experience battling the GOP than any other candidate in the Democratic field.

“I believe that I have a very good argument that I know more about beating Republicans than anybody else running. They’ve been after me for 15 years, and much to their dismay, I’m still standing,” she said in answer to a woman’s question about her electability. “I’m leading in all the polls, I’m beating them in state after state after state.”

Clinton has been widely criticized by her Democratic rivals who claim she’s too polarizing, and can’t bring the party together to win the White House.

But she says she has support from around the country, including “more Democratic support from the so-called red states than anybody else running.” She told the crowd of hundreds gathered at Perry High School that she has more U.S. senators supporting her than her rivals, as well as other lawmakers from states that “Democrats have a hard time winning.”

“I think they have looked at the field and figured out who can best beat the Republicans,” Clinton said.

She added that when she ran for the Senate in 2000, a lot of people argued that she couldn’t win.

“And I just got up every day, and I reached out to Republicans and Democrats and independents,” she said, adding that her opponents outspent her 2-to-1 and said “all kinds of unpleasant things.” She said voters didn’t believe them, and she ended up with 55 percent of the vote. At the end of her first term, she said, her support at the polls climbed to 67 percent, and “a lot of people who voted for George Bush in 2004 voted for me.”

The woman who asked the question told Clinton that Republicans “never quit talking about you,” and that it’s almost as though the New York senator is another candidate on the stage at Republican debates because of how much they target her.

Clinton elicited laughter from the audience when she admitted that “the Republicans have a core group that, I think is fair to say, are not my fans.”

She was asked by reporters about her recent criticism of other Democrats, when earlier this year she called for her party to focus their attacks on Republicans.

“I respect and admire all of my opponents, and I think that there are differences among us on issues and on qualifications and on experience,” she said. “When we finally choose a nominee, which I expect to be me, we are going to close ranks, and we are going to run against the Republicans and win.”

Barack Obama’s campaign weighed in, claiming he is the strongest candidate in the field.

“Throughout his career, Senator Obama has succeeded in bringing Democrats, Republicans and independents together to solve important problems like providing health care to families,” Obama spokesman Tommy Vietor said.

A recent Washington Post-ABC News poll showed Obama had 30 percent support among likely Iowa Democratic caucus-goers and Clinton had 26 percent. She leads in many other national polls.

When asked about Obama’s lead in Iowa, Clinton answered that she doesn’t pay much attention to polls, and acknowledged that it’s a competitive race.

“There have been a lot of polls, and frankly, I don’t pay much attention to any of them,” she said. Later, she acknowledged, “It is a much more competitive race (in Iowa) than it is in other parts of the country.”

Clinton, who wants a withdrawal of troops from Iraq, was asked whether she thought the surge there is working. She told reporters she doesn’t believe there is a military solution for Iraq.

“I don’t believe if we stay another day, stay five days, stay five years or 10 years that we are going to make a difference militarily,” she said. “Yes, we can have some tactical successes, but ultimately this is up to the Iraqis. I believe we should start bringing our troops home now.”

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