"I think that we should assume going forward that the people who disagree with us, honestly in our approach, will not make it quite as easy to draw the contrast on the things they do and say [as] they did last time," Clinton told Democrats meeting in retreat at Leesburg, Va.
The 2012 presidential election was "a referendum in large measure on what the American people did not want," Clinton said. "We have to create a future that they do want."
Democrats, Clinton said, must advance an agenda of jobs, immigration and gun control without relying solely on the coalition of minorities and young voters who re-elected President Barack Obama.
The former president -- a relentless campaigner for Obama in 2012 -- urged Democrats to be mindful of voters who are gun owners when pursuing legislation to expand background checks, limit high-capacity magazines and reinstate the ban on assault weapons in the aftermath of the Dec. 14 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School Newtown, Conn.
Clinton encouraged Democrats to explain their proposals carefully, not scale them back, The Hill said.
"I see this whole gun issue as an opportunity, not a toxic landmine," Clinton said. "Treat these people as our friends, our neighbors, people we share a country with."
Clinton urged the party to develop a cogent employment program because "if you do not have growth, you cannot fix this debt problem."
"The most important thing I can say to you is this is a job," Clinton told the Democrats. "It is a job. And keeping it requires you to do it and sell it simultaneously."