[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i.l.cnn.net/cnn/2008/images/02/04/art.blitzer.cnn.jpg caption="CNN Anchor Wolf Blitzer."]WASHINGTON (CNN) - Former President Bill Clinton is still out there actively campaigning for his wife. He has toned down his comments in the face of some severe criticism, especially in the days before and immediately after the South Carolina primary. In defending Hillary Clinton, he was accused of going way too far in criticizing Barack Obama. The argument was that other campaign leaders should do that – not a former President of the United States.
“She’s the best qualified person to be president I’ve ever had a chance to support, and I feel strongly about that,” Bill Clinton told a reporter from WCSH in Portland, Maine on Thursday. “And I think there’s nothing wrong with me saying that.” He then added: “But what I learned from that whole dustup, and all the things people saying that I didn’t, is that as long as I’m promoting her no one can have an objection; but I can’t defend her. Someone else has to do that.”
There is no doubt that Bill Clinton is a huge asset for his wife’s campaign. He remains extraordinarily popular among Democrats. But there is also no doubt that he can – and probably has – hurt her chances by aggressively defending her record. He now openly acknowledges that. Other surrogates and supporters will have to do the defending for him.
I started covering Bill Clinton in November 1992 – just before he was elected. I then stayed in Little Rock for nearly three months during his transition to the White House, and then became CNN’s Senior White House Correspondent for seven years. It was clear to me then – and it remains clear now – that he is one of the most astute political strategists out there. Politics is in his blood. He truly understands the process even as he occasionally makes some serious blunders. When he does, he is among the best in damage control.
- Wolf Blitzer