Presidential contender Hillary Clinton shrugged off her slumping poll numbers on Monday and said the upcoming Democratic debates would give her a chance to draw a contrast with liberal Senator Bernie Sanders and other rivals as she makes her White House pitch directly to voters.
"You're supposed to have an election; you're supposed to have a contest," Clinton told reporters after a campaign event in Iowa, the state that will kick off the Democratic presidential nominating contest early next year.
"When we start the debate, we will start to draw contrasts not only as I do all the time with Republicans but where appropriate with my Democratic competitors," she said.
Clinton, once the prohibitive favorite for the Democratic nomination for the 2016 presidential election, has seen her cushion dwindle in polls both nationally and in early-voting states such as Iowa and New Hampshire amid questions about her use of a private email server for her work as secretary of state.
In new Iowa polls, she has fallen into a dead heat or trails Sanders, who also has closed the gap nationally. A Reuters/Ipsos national poll on Friday showed Clinton's one-time 30-point lead among Democrats has dipped to eight percentage points.
The Vermont senator has galvanized the party's left-leaning activists and taken advantage of what other polls show are Clinton's declining ratings on honesty and trustworthiness fueled by the email controversy.
Clinton said she was still confident about her prospects.
"I'm not one of those who ever thought this was going to be a straight shot," she told reporters. "I've been in and around enough campaigns to know there's an ebb and flow. Polls go up and down; people's decision-making changes over time."
Earlier, she told the crowd at Northern Iowa University in Cedar Falls that it was great she was having a "vigorous" discussion of ideas with Sanders and her other rivals and said the debates would give them a chance to "talk about where we agree and disagree."
The first Democratic debate is scheduled for Las Vegas, Nevada, on Oct. 13, with one more each month before the Iowa contest on Feb. 1.
"In the Democratic primaries and caucuses, you have to try to earn every single person's support. That's what I intend to do," Clinton said.
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