(CNN) – Democratic sources supportive of and regularly in touch with the Clinton campaign describe what one calls "a huge wave" of sentiment that Bill Clinton "needs to stop."
The sources - who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject - act as either unpaid advisers or surrogates for Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign. Interviewed separately, they agreed that the former president's recent headline-generating statements "hurt more than helped" his wife's South Carolina campaign.
His comments criticized as racially insensitive, the verbal sparring with Barack Obama, and his "scolding" of the media are "distractions," say these Clinton supporters. Hillary Clinton, says one, "needs to take and be the lead."
The former president has long been renowned for his adept political skills. But he is "missing a beat" and has "become tone deaf" about the dynamic he has brought to his wife's campaign, according to one source who has known both Clintons for decades.
"Something has happened," says the source. "He just wants to help her too much, or maybe protect his own legacy too much."
Another source, who worked in the Clinton administration, called it "unbelievable" that the former president linked Barack Obama's South Carolina victory to Rev. Jesse Jackson's wins in 1984 and 1988 in the state.
Though Clinton campaign had invested considerable time and money in South Carolina, the former president's remark was interpreted by some as an attempt to dismiss Obama's win as an expected outcome in a state where more than half of Democratic primary voters were African-American.
The introduction of race as an issue in the 2008 Democratic contest has caused angst and anger in the Democratic Party over the past few weeks - including what one source described as an "angry" phone conversation between the former president and Sen. Ted Kennedy just after the New Hampshire primary.
In the phone call, Kennedy expressed his alarm that race had been injected into the campaign to the detriment of the party.
Kennedy and his son, Rep. Patrick Kennedy, today endorsed Obama's campaign at a Washington, D.C. campaign event. They were joined by Caroline Kennedy, daughter of the late John F. Kennedy, who endorsed Obama Sunday in a New York Times editorial.
There was no suggestion from the sources critical of Mr. Clinton's recent campaign appearances that he should be sidelined, only that he "depart from the headlines and center stage."
Former President Clinton, with an approval rating of over 80 percent among Democrats, is seen overall as a potential asset, said these sources. But he needs to be his "summer self," said a long-time Clinton supporter - when he made fewer headlines, and focused on his wife's resume and policy proposals.
There was also unanimous agreement on the part of the critics that the only person with the sway to change Bill Clinton's high-profile role is the candidate herself, Hillary Clinton.
The Clinton campaign was not immediately available for comment.