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Last Updated: Friday, 1 February 2008, 19:37 GMT
Feeling the 'Billary' effect
By Kim Ghattas
BBC News, Washington

Hillary and Bill Clinton campaign at the Iowa State Fair, July 2007

He was supposed to be her greatest asset - but in the view of many, he has now turned into a liability.

Last summer, New York Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton rolled out her charismatic husband, former President Bill Clinton, to campaign alongside her and build support for her bid to win the Democrat nomination and hopefully move back into the White House.

Sometimes he has even aggressively campaigned instead of her, as in South Carolina last week, where he went on to deliver her concession speech after she lost to Illinois Senator Barack Obama.

The US magazine Newsweek wrote then that they had to look at their calendar "to check it's not really 1992".

This was a state that the then-governor of Arkansas won during his own 1992 bid for the presidency and, at the time, Mr Clinton had bragged that by electing him president, voters would get "two for the price of one".

With his wife, the brainy lawyer, they were a power couple from day one - but then, as now, the "two for one" bargain is not appealing to everybody.

Bad cop

Initially Mr Clinton's charm and clout were a crowd pleaser and, in an op-ed titled "Hobbled by Hubby", the Washington Post's EJ Dionne wrote that initially "even as her husband's positive campaigning reminded Democrats of why they liked him, Hillary Clinton came across as her own person".

Bill and Hillary Clinton in 1993
When he was first elected in 1992, Bill Clinton promised "two for one"

But soon, the Hill'n'Bill show appeared to be unravelling.

He upstaged her on several occasions and played the bad cop, attracting unflattering comments about his bulging eyes and red neck veins, as he responded angrily sometimes to questions by the media on the campaign trail.

"Her campaign underestimated the bitterness that would be created by Bill Clinton's role as a bad cop against Obama" and his campaigning "created a backlash among his own loyalists", wrote Mr Dionne.

Hillary was also perceived to be using her husband to deflect criticism or avoid answering tough questions.

I can't tell who I'm running against sometimes
Barack Obama

For her detractors and rivals, there was simply one candidate too many on stage.

During a debate in South Carolina ahead of the primary there, when Mr Obama complained about Bill Clinton's attacks on him, Mrs Clinton snapped: "I'm here. He's not."

Mr Obama was quick to snap back: "I can't tell who I'm running against sometimes."

Clearly, what was meant to be a shoo-in had turned into a war of attrition with the new kid on the block.

"The Clintons realised that Barack Obama was a very serious challenge and they felt they had to do everything to try to block him, they overdid it," said Jim Barnes, a political writer for the non-partisan National Journal.

"They basically went out and tried to nuke him."

More of the same?

Anyone with fond memories of the prosperous 1990s was reminded of the polarising, scandal-plagued presidency and Hillary was faced with the negative impact of her husband's legacy.

Hillary with Bill and Chelsea Clinton as the Iowa results come in
In Iowa, members of the Clinton administration surrounded Hillary

Those hoping for change also worried they were just getting an updated version of the old Clinton administration as she gave her concession speech in Iowa, surrounded by her husband and daughter Chelsea - but also former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and retired army general and former Nato commander Wesley Clark, who commanded the Allied operations in Kosovo during president Clinton's time in office.

But during Thursday's debate, Mrs Clinton tried to make a point that electing her was not "more of the same", if only because she was a woman.

There has now been 20 years of presidents from the Clinton and Bush families, raising concerns about new dynasties in the making.

The Bush family has been in the White House even longer if the counting starts from the day that George Bush Senior became vice president in 1981.

"It took a Clinton to clean after the first Bush, it might take another Clinton to clean after the second Bush," Mrs Clinton said with a smile, when challenged on the dynasty question.

Damage control

While she is still leading in national polls for the Democratic nominee, Mr Obama is fast closing in on her, with a difference of only six points.

Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton at the Democratic debate, 31 Jan 2008
Mr Obama was endorsed by the Kennedys, a blow to Mrs Clinton

Part of it may well be due to the negative impact of the "Billary" component of the campaign, particularly after Ted and Caroline Kennedy decided to endorse the young Illinois senator, despite their friendship with the Clintons.

It was widely seen as a reaction by the Kennedys to Mr Clinton's divisive comments, un-befitting of an elder statesman.

In the lead-up to Super Tuesday on 5 February, with more than 1,600 delegates up for grabs in some 22 states across the US, Mrs Clinton has some damage control to do to retain her lead and get the results she wants.

"If Senator Clinton is able to get voters to focus on her and not her husband, she will have a chance to do well on Super Tuesday. She cannot rely on him to help her win this election," said Jim Barnes.

So, over the next few days, voters will see less of Bill and more of Hill as the New York senator tries to convince voters she is the only Clinton running for office.

Select from the list below to view state level results.



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