No matter what happens, the story line changes

Bill Clinton was the goat. No, wait, Bill Clinton was extremely effective.

By Tim Grieve

Published January 9, 2008 2:57AM (EST)

With 61 percent of the precincts reporting, Hillary Clinton leads Barack Obama by 3 percentage points, a margin of about 4,400 votes. No matter what happens now -- whether Clinton holds on to her lead or Obama pulls out a squeaker -- the story line Wednesday will be very different than anyone would have expected just a few hours ago, when pollsters were predicting a 6- to 7-point Obama victory.

Indeed, it's changing even as we watch the results come in.

On CNN this afternoon, Democratic consultant Donna Brazile took the Clinton campaign to task for giving Bill Clinton too public of a role.

"Look, he shouldn't take out all his pain on Barack Obama," Brazile said. "It's time that they regroup, figure out what Hillary needs to do to get her campaign back on track. It sounds like sour grapes coming from the former commander in chief, someone that many Democrats hold in high esteem. For him to go after Obama, using 'fairy tale,' calling him a 'kid,' as he did last week, it's an insult. And I tell you, as an African- American, I find his words and his tone to be very depressing. . . . For Bill Clinton to go out of his way to become a distraction to Hillary Clinton and to launch the kind of attacks on Obama, it's just out of character for Bill Clinton. I think it's time that he helps Hillary talk about her message and not go down this road."

Asked a few minutes ago whether she thought the Clinton campaign has used the former president effectively, Brazile said: "Oh, no question. Look, what people don't understand is that Democratic primary voters like Bill Clinton, they love Hillary Clinton, they dispatched him to an area where Obama was surging, and I think it had the effect of tamping down Obama's support and giving Hillary Clinton a real reason to come back in this race."

Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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