Image: Hillary Clinton
Stan Honda  /  AFP - Getty Images
Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton poses with a supporter after a rally Sunday in Concord, N.H.
updated 9/2/2007 10:58:57 PM ET 2007-09-03T02:58:57

Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton on Sunday directly challenged her top rivals’ claims that she is too conventional to bring needed change to Washington, declaring “you bring change by working in the system.”

Clinton argued that political transformation can come only by working within established rules and seeking common ground when necessary.

Her years as part of the Washington establishment as first lady and as a New York senator have convinced her that real change can come only by seeking consensus, she told a rally on the lawn of the New Hampshire state capitol.

“I’ve learned you bring change by working in the system established by Constitution. You can’t pretend the system doesn’t exist,” she maintained, seeking to counter arguments by rivals Barrack Obama and John Edwards that she has been too cozy with the Washington establishment.

‘It’s about results’
“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.

More forcefully than usual, she also reminded the audience that she is running to be the first woman president.

“I believe that this nation can shatter the highest glass ceiling,” she said.

Clinton’s newly tailored stump speech and two-day Labor Day swing with her husband, the former president, signaled a new phase in the campaign calendar. Candidates from both parties were making Labor Day weekend appearances across the country as the symbolic start of the furious four-month period before voting begins.

The senator and former president made their way from Concord to 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.

With Clinton riding high in national and most state polls, Obama and Edwards have tried to paint her as both polarizing and as a tool of the political establishment.

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Both have argued that she is too cozy with special interests in Washington, particularly after she defended her decision to take money from lobbyists at a candidates’ forum last month.

Edwards has been particularly blunt, calling Clinton the candidate of the past and drawing attention to the fundraising scandals and other less savory aspects of Bill Clinton’s presidency.

Without mentioning either rival by name, Clinton tried to dismantle those arguments. She noted that much of her political success had come from winning over Republicans as she did running for Senate 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.

‘Principled compromises’
“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 fighting 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.

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.

“You want to restore our prestige around the world overnight? Elect Hillary president,” he said.

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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