(AP) Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton says she's "driven by my passions" to get things done and suggests her image as a calculating politician comes from her pragmatic focus on results.
"It's a passion that I carry with me every single day," Clinton said Monday in an interview with The Associated Press. "I also know that I live in the real world and I have to figure out how we're going to get these changes done."
The price she pays for pragmatism is to sometimes be viewed as calculating, the New York senator said.
"I see it as harnessing my passion to actually get results and make a difference in people's lives," she said. "I care deeply, but I also know I've got to build coalitions, I've got to bring people together. That's what I've been doing and that's what I will do."
In the interview, she dismissed suggestions that revelations her campaign had planted questions during campaign stops in Iowa reinforced any image for calculation.
"I think in campaigns things happen and you just go on, and that's certainly what I've done for 35 years and it's what I've done for eight years in the White House and now seven years in the Senate," said Clinton. She has indicated she knew nothing about the planted questions, but some of her rivals have cited the issue to argue she is less than genuine.
"People can look at my record," said Clinton. "My whole life, going back 35 years has been driven by my passions for improving the lives of children and families, making our country fairer and more equal and creating opportunity for people."
Clinton has forged a significant lead over her rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination in national surveys, but polls show the race much more competitive in Iowa where rivals Barack Obama and John Edwards are criticizing her vigorously.
Asked if she could survive an early loss, Clinton said, "I can survive setbacks, I've survived a lot of setbacks in my life. I don't see them as anything other than the natural ebb and flow of life and politics."
Some strategists argue that it will be tough to stop Clinton should she pull off a win in Iowa because her poll standings elsewhere are solid and would be reinforced by a win against tough competition in the leadoff caucus state.
"I don't have any illusions that it's going to be smooth sailing, it hardly ever is in life or politics," said Clinton. "I'm just getting up every day and doing the best I can and trying to reach out to as many people as possible."
Clinton also argued that she's the Democrat best able to win in the general election.
"First, I've been tested, I've been through it," said Clinton. "I have no illusions about what the Republicans will do to keep the White House."
That experience has hardened and prepared her for a brutal national campaign, she said.
"I think I have been making a lot of progress in this election because people are seeing me, they are getting a firsthand view of who I am and what I care about and what I want to do as president," she said.
Clinton said she expects the nomination to be settled quickly, probably within a month of Iowa's Jan. 3 caucuses.
"I'm running like I'm 50 points behind because I know how fast things can turn, I understand the crosscurrents in any political campaign," said Clinton. "I started out so far behind in Iowa."
Clinton said she's flattered to be in a field that includes a woman, a black man and a Hispanic candidate, but that won't determine the outcome.
"People aren't going to vote for us because of who we are, they will vote for us because what we'll do, what we've done and what difference we can make," said Clinton.
Clinton spoke to The AP after a speech to 250 delegates to a regional convention of the United Auto Workers, during which she sought to ease their worries on trade issue. A key difference between labor and former President Clinton was his pushing agreements like the North American Free Trade Agreement, which union leaders argue ships jobs overseas and forces American workers to compete with low-wage workers abroad.
"When I'm president we'll have a time-out to take stock of where we are on trade," said Sen. "Every trade agreement has to be independently, objectively analyzed."
Union activists play a key role in Iowa's caucuses, and Clinton sought to bolster her ties.
"I am going to do everything I can to move toward smart trade," said Clinton. "I don't want to be in a race to the bottom."
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