DES MOINES, Iowa -- White House hopeful Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) on Saturday downplayed her front-runner status and said, "I am not letting the forces that oppose me define me," when pressed about her electability.
Allies of presidential contenders Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) have been raising questions about Clinton's ability to be elected in November 2008. Other Democrats are concerned that Clinton may be seen as polarizing and hurt congressional and other down-ticket candidates if she heads the ballot.
The Obama campaign in past days has been emphasizing the possibility that Clinton's nomination was "inevitable." Thursday morning, Obama sent out a fund-raising appeal titled "Inevitable," where he said, "Hillary is not the first politician in Washington to declare 'Mission Accomplished' a little too soon."
Talking to reporters after a campaign event here, Clinton made the point that her mission is not accomplished. "I consider myself someone who is working as hard as I can every day to earn the support of Iowans, and that's what I'm going to keep doing," she said.
"I am well-aware that no one has voted, no one has caucused. We have a long way to go before that happens. I don't take anything for granted, and I am going to keep working as hard as I possibly can."
Clinton alluded to her lead in national polls and her success in landing some key endorsements in discussing the electability factor.
"I've opened up some real distance between me and the Republican nominees at this point in the campaign. ... I think that as this campaign goes forward, people are going to see what I stand for; what I aim to do as president is not what they often hear."
Pressed if she would drag down other Democrats if nominated, Clinton said there was no basis for the assertion, and "I am not letting the forces that oppose me define me.
"There has been a lot of accumulated attacks on me going back 15 years. And what I've done in this campaign is to get out and have people form their own opinions of me. And slowly but surely, I think, sort of reverse a lot of the unfounded feelings people had."
Clinton earned the front-runner title mainly because she has remained ahead in national and critical early voting state polls. A CNN national poll Oct. 12-14 found 46 percent for Clinton to 17 percent for Obama and 12 percent for Edwards. The Des Moines Register reports the latest Iowa Poll shows Clinton at 29 percent, Edwards at 23 percent and Obama at 22 percent, as surveys suggest Obama is on an uptick.
Clinton turns 60 on Friday. Asked if that was the new 50, she replied, "or 40."