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Charlie Neibergall, Associated Press
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks to local residents during a campaign stop at the Iowa City Public Library, Tuesday, July 7, 2015, in Iowa City, Iowa.

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Hillary Rodham Clinton is warning the nation about taking a "big U-turn" to a Republican in the White House, pointing to her husband's economic record as a model.

The Democratic presidential contender said President Bill Clinton presided over an economy that helped not only the wealthy but the poor in his eight years in office. She said Republicans afterward left President Barack Obama with an economic crisis.

"Right now our country deserves to keep moving forward, not to do a big U-turn going back to where we came from," Clinton said at the Iowa City Public Library. "That didn't work before. It won't work again."

Clinton offered herself up as a Democratic standard-bearer as her main Democratic rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, has been generating large crowds, packing in more than 2,500 people during a recent event in Council Bluffs, Iowa. Sanders has made economic inequality the cornerstone of his campaign and attracted liberals wary of Wall Street.

The former secretary of state made no mention of Sanders but drew an implicit contrast with his record on gun control. Sanders, a favorite of liberal Democrats, has opposed some gun control measures in the Senate and drew criticism from some Democrats for voting in 2005 to protect gun manufacturers from lawsuits filed by victims of gun violence.

Clinton said she would speak out "about the uncontrollable use of guns in our country" and believes most Americans and gun owners support universal background checks. "Let's not be afraid of the gun lobby, which does not even really represent the majority of gun owners in America," she said.

Sanders says most gun owners in the country obey the law, and he makes a distinction on the gun-control question between rural states like Vermont, where hunting is common and gun-ownership traditions go deep, and big cities.

"I want to see real, serious debate and action on guns, but it is not going to take place if we simply have extreme positions on both sides," he told CNN on Sunday. "I think I can bring us to the middle."

Asked about Sanders, Clinton did not mention him by name but said she welcomed a contested race. "This is going to be competitive — it should be competitive," Clinton said, adding, "The more the better."

Clinton told reporters the Greek financial crisis was a "tragedy" and she was hopeful an agreement could help Greece recover, maintain its place in the eurozone and "keep Europe united."

She declined to weigh in on the merits of ongoing Iran nuclear talks, but said there needs to be "full transparency, disclosure and verifiable inspections going forward" of Iranian sites.

In her remarks, Clinton lauded Iowa's use of renewable energy and spoke at length about her work with Obama on climate change.

She also peppered her speech with Iowa references, talking about a recent murder at the Coral Ridge Mall in Iowa City and a local pastor who was deported to Honduras earlier this year.

Clinton was sitting down Tuesday with CNN for her first national television interview since launching her campaign in April.

Thomas reported from Washington. Follow Catherine Lucey and Ken Thomas on Twitter: https://twitter.com/catherine_lucey and https://twitter.com/kthomasdc