Democrat Hillary Clinton courted labor activists with a sharply populist theme, making the argument that the party needs to focus on results not rhetoric and that she's the candidate best able to change the nation's course.

Drawing a clear distinction with her Democratic rivals, Clinton brought her former president husband along for a Labor Day swing underscoring her experience.

"Change is just a word if you don't have the strength and experience to make it happen," Clinton said. "I bring 35 years of experience to make the changes I think we need to make in America."

She sounded her theme before more than 2,000 activists at a Labor Day picnic in Sioux City.

Clinton said she would hit the ground running, acting even before sworn into office. The day after winning election, Clinton said "I'm going to ask distinguished Americans of both parties, including my husband" to begin traveling the globe with the message "America is back."

The fight for the Democratic nomination has focused on which candidate is most likely to bring fundamental change to a country that all argue is off course. Rivals Barack Obama and John Edwards make the case that Clinton is a creature of Washington who ultimately will bring business as usual to the White House.

In what she billed as the formal opening of her fall campaign, Clinton sought to turn that argument on its ear, saying her experience means she is best qualified to bring about that change.

"We need to focus on results, not rhetoric, people not process," said Clinton. "You have to go into the Oval Office on day one and start making change. I want to start even before I'm inaugurated."

In seeking distinction with rivals like Edwards and Obama, Clinton and her backers argue that Obama is in his first term in the Senate, and Edwards served only a single term before leaving office. They see her two terms as first lady as well as two terms representing New York in the Senate as building the experience need to actually pushing her plans through Congress.

"We are now living with a government that doesn't work, that none of us believe in, that has demonstrated time and time again they put cronyism above competence, ideology above true leadership," said Clinton.

She mixed her theme of experience with sharply populist message aimed at energizing union voters key to winning the Democratic nomination.

"Our country is great because of people like you," Clinton said. "We're out of balance right now. We're not paying enough attention to what made us great. It is not rich people who made America great, it is hard-working people like you."

The holiday swing was the second time former President Bill Clinton has joined his wife on the campaign trail in key early voting states like Iowa and New Hampshire. Clinton's record with labor is mixed, largely because he pushed trade deals like the North American Free Trade Agreement, which unions argue is a ticket to exporting American jobs.

In introducing his wife, Clinton focused on the economic gains made during his tenure in office.

"When I was elected president, inequality in America decreased," Clinton said. "We had six years of manufacturing job growth."