On the dais again, it's the other Clinton
The former president has been mostly an asset in his wife's presidential campaign, but some top Democrats are starting to issue warnings in the media.
(Page 2 of 2)
Ultimately though, the Clintons are in uncharted territory. Never before has a former president's wife made a serious run for the Oval Office herself, and so there is no precedent for an ex-president playing such an integral part in a presidential campaign not his own. For Bill Clinton, the rough and tumble of a campaign doesn't square with his post-presidential image as a global figure, doing good works with the first President Bush.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Hillary Clinton is also mindful of her image as a feminist, seeking to become the first woman president. But even as she relies heavily on her husband, she insists she is running "as an individual." At a press conference Tuesday, she was asked if she was trying to belittle Obama subtly in her approach to him as a black man. She said no.
"I think that this is totally about us as individuals," she said. "He is African-American. I am a woman."
But clearly, the Clinton campaign is more an "us" venture than an individual one. Later in the press conference, when asked if she was conceding Saturday's South Carolina Democratic primary to Obama, as she headed off to campaign in other states for a few days, she said she was not. Her husband and her daughter, Chelsea, were staying behind to keep campaigning, she said. Of course, the other candidates have surrogates on the trail, too – spouses, children, celebrities – but none is in the category of Bill Clinton and they rarely go on the attack.
Stopping for a breakfast of fried eggs and grits at a restaurant in Columbia, he defended his role in his wife's campaign and urged the media to move on to other stories.
"I'm a good surrogate for her because except for Chelsea, you know, we know her better than anyone else personally, and we're probably more familiar with her positions," he told reporters. "I don't think it's like her being here, but it's probably the next best thing."
When a reporter asked whether he was playing "attack dog" for his wife, he seemed eager to change the subject, saying voters care more about real issues like the economy and the Iraq war.
Diners at the restaurant applauded when Clinton, in a gray suit and shimmering orange tie, strode in with his security detail Tuesday morning.
"You the man," said one man, handing him a baseball to sign.
"Your wife was spectacular last night," said another, reaching to shake his hand.
But some South Carolinians interviewed this week said their fondness for Bill Clinton didn't translate into support for his wife. "I was once for Hillary Clinton, but then I realized it wasn't for the right reasons – it was for her husband," Kenneth Owens, a paramedic, said Monday after hearing the top three Democratic contenders speak at a Martin Luther King Jr. Day rally at the State House in Columbia.
He said he has since shifted to Obama. "He's African-American and he's trying to offer change," Mr. Owens said.