Bill’s big role in Hillary Clinton’s campaign

There are few better advocates for Hillary Clinton than the former president

Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton
FILE - In this Nov. 15, 2015 file photo, former President Bill Clinton listens to his wife, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, speak in Ames, Iowa. The White House hopefuls have been slogging through Iowa, New Hampshire and airports in between for months. Beginning in February, voters will finally get the chance to pare down an unwieldy field of Republicans and a smaller group of Democrats dominated by Hillary Clinton. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File)

(CNN) – Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders faced off in the PBS News Hour Democratic Presidential Debate Thursday, a debate that could turn the Democratic race for president upside down.

Hillary Clinton – of course – needs to reassure supporters that she is still the frontrunner after a blowout in New Hampshire. She’s no doubt getting advice from her husband, former President Bill Clinton.

But could one of her closest advisers be hurting her campaign?

Bill Clinton loves the campaign trail. He’s still the biggest name in Democratic politics – one of the most popular former presidents – but Clinton nostalgia is facing a fresh test in a year where being part of the old guard carries new liabilities.

In his wife’s second presidential campaign, he started with a soft touch. “She’s pretty much still the same girl I fell in love with in law school.” He even refrained from responding to Donald Trump’s attacks on his wife.

But the former president’s tone has gradually crescendoed into a direct confrontation with Bernie Sanders

“When you’re making a revolution, you can’t be too careful about the facts. You’re just for me or against me.”

Can we add in the part where he calls him the “champion of all things small, an enemy of all things big”?

Sanders is bristling from the confrontation. “I was disappointed in President Clinton. I have known him for 25 years, and I like him and I respect him and I hope that this campaign does not degenerate.”

Some Democrats are starting to have flashbacks to 2008, when President Clinton became an unwelcome center of attention and a harsh critic of Barack Obama.

The fairy tale line stuck with Clinton, and made him seething mad. But he made matters worse by diminishing Obama’s victory in South Carolina. “Jesse Jackson won South Carolina twice in ‘84 and ‘88 and he ran a good campaign, and Sen. Obama’s run a good campaign here – he’s run a good campaign everywhere.”

There are few better advocates for Hillary Clinton than the former president. But as this campaign escalates, some Democrats wonder if he’ll be able to hold his tongue.

He knows his words on the campaign trail are magnified. “Sometimes when I am on a stage like this, I wish that we weren’t married, then I could say what I really think.

As the contest with Sanders escalates, both sides are furiously trying to win over black voters. President Clinton is at the center of that effort, which will be carefully scrutinized.

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