WASHINGTON In 1992 Bill Clinton vowed Americans would get "two for the price of one" if they elected him with wife Hillary at his side. Now it is two against one as the Clintons gang up on Barack Obama in the Democratic presidential race.
Bill Clinton, whose eight years as president in the 1990s are remembered fondly by many Democrats despite the drama of his Monica Lewinsky scandal, has gone from top dog to attack dog on the campaign trail on behalf of his wife.
The former president went negative against Obama in New Hampshire early this month, angrily accusing the news media of not looking more deeply into the "fairy tale" of Obama's record on Iraq as an Illinois senator.
In South Carolina this week, he is trying to make Obama pay for comments he made last week in Nevada about the late President Ronald Reagan, a Republican icon held in disdain by many Democrats.
Obama had said Reagan "changed the trajectory of America" and that the Republicans over the past 10-15 years were "the party of ideas" because they were challenging conventional wisdom.
"I thought he was running against me for a while there in Nevada when he said that Republicans had most of the new ideas and you had to challenge the conventional wisdom of the '90s," Clinton told reporters in South Carolina. "I thought we challenged the conventional wisdom of the '90s."
An Obama supporter and ex-presidential candidate himself, former New Jersey Sen. Bill Bradley said Bill Clinton is conveniently ignoring his own presidential past of "triangulation," adopting some Republican ideas in order to get re-elected in 1996.
"It was indeed in the Clinton administration ... that the whole concept of triangulation took place, which means appearing to be Republican to enough people to get elected, and that's what happened," Bradley told MSNBC.
"So Barack Obama isn't supporting the ideas of Republicans. Bill Clinton actually took the ideas of Republicans and used them in a Democratic way to get re-elected," Bradley said.
Bill Clinton's attacking role has gotten many political experts wondering whether New York Sen. Hillary Clinton's reliance on her husband will sooner or later backfire on her in her drive to become the first woman U.S. president.
"Clinton's current role confirms my ongoing reservations about whether the nation can deal with two presidents in the White House -- one of them elected and the other retired," said Linda Fowler, a professor of government at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire.
Democrats hold a natural advantage this year with many Americans fatigued of the two-term George W. Bush White House, but the Bill Clinton role is an intangible that could affect voter thinking, experts believe.
America has never had to deal with a former president re-entering the White House as a spouse.
"It does raise some questions about what a Clinton White House will look like and the power Bill will have," said presidential historian Thomas Alan Schwartz of Vanderbilt University in Tennessee.
The onslaught from not one but two Clintons has clearly frustrated Obama, who would be America's first black president.
At an acrimonious debate on Monday night in South Carolina ahead of Saturday's Democratic vote there, Obama resurrected a line used by many critics to describe the Clintons, that they will say anything to get elected.
"No, he's not getting to me," Obama told NBC's "Today" show on Wednesday. "It's just that, I think, in the Clinton campaign, they have had former President Clinton delivering a bunch of inaccurate statements about my record. So, naturally, I've got to make sure that those are corrected."
(Editing by David Wiessler)
(To read more about the U.S. political campaign, visit Reuters "Tales from the Trail: 2008" online at blogs.reuters.com/trail08/