DES MOINES, Iowa – Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton on Saturday rejected the front-runner label, but acknowledged increasing fire from rivals in both parties — which she said she will largely ignore.
"I'm well aware that my opponents on both sides are paying a lot more attention to me," Clinton said. "I'm reminded by some of my friends that when you get to be my age, having so many men paying attention to you is kind of flattering."
Clinton, who's about to turn 60, met with reporters after a campaign event in Des Moines.
Most national polls have shown Clinton atop the field of Democratic contenders, and recent surveys have shown her gaining ground in Iowa. She also has a financial edge over all the other candidates.
She was asked if she is the front-runner for the Democratic nomination.
"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 continue to do," Clinton said. "I'm well aware that no one has voted, that no one has caucused."
Clinton said many voters remain unconvinced.
"I'm not taking anything for granted," she said. "We've got a long way to go before that happens."
She rejected criticism from rivals like Barack Obama and John Edwards, who charge she's too closely tied to Washington to bring about real change. She said she won't allow that criticism to knock her off message.
"I'm going to continue to attack the problems of America," Clinton said. "I'm going to focus on what I would do as president."
Clinton is calling her latest tour "Organizing for Change" to underscore her argument that a fundamental shift in the nation's direction is needed and she's best equipped to bring it.
On the stump, Clinton focused on her package to help students pay for college. She called for doubling the tax credit for college costs and increasing Pell Grants, which help middle-class students afford college.
"College costs have gone up 35 percent in the last five years," Clinton said. "I think we've got to ask a lot of hard questions here."
She said the issue is central to helping the struggling middle class.
"Jobs, health care, education, those are the pillars of the middle class and they are also the pillars of my campaign," she said.
She said the Bush administration has had a concrete impact on middle-class families.
"The average American family has lost $1,000 in income over the last six years," Clinton said.
At a later event in Storm Lake, she referred to the presidency of her husband, Bill.
"When my husband left office, we had a balanced budget and surplus and I thought that was the right thing to do for America," she said. "We've got to get back to fiscal responsibility."
Clinton drew some of her loudest cheers when she reminded the audience that she could be the nation's first female president. She said women in their 90s had approached her at campaign events and told her, "I was born before women could vote, but I'm going to live to see a woman president."