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Analysis: The Bill Clinton factor

  • Story Highlights
  • Ex-President Bill Clinton's gaffe on wife's Bosnia trip getting attention
  • The former president said his wife told him to stop discussing it
  • Bill Schneider: Ex-president "off message" and "becoming a distraction" to campaign
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By Bill Schneider
CNN Senior Political Analyst
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A campaign gaffe by former President Bill Clinton on his wife's tale about a trip to Bosnia got attention Friday -- sparking questions on whether he's becoming a big problem for her presidential campaign.

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Sen. Hillary Clinton told her husband on Friday to stop discussing her Bosnia gaffe.

Would it have been better left unsaid? Sen. Hillary Clinton thought so and told him to can it.

The flap, over her trip to Bosnia as first lady, which she inaccurately described as a landing under sniper fire in 1996, was brought up again -- this time by her husband.

When something like this happens, the rule in a campaign is, move on. Bill Clinton, however, didn't quite follow that rule.

In Indiana Thursday, he said the press, "fulminated'' because once, late at night, when she was exhausted, his wife "misstated and immediately apologized for it, what happened to her in Bosnia in 1995. Did y'all see that? Oh, they blew it up."

The former president's comments were not quite accurate. His wife described the incident several times, most recently March 17.

And she didn't immediately apologize. A week later, she acknowledged that she misspoke.

"And you would have thought, you know, that she'd robbed a bank the way they carried on about this," he said Thursday. "And some of them, when they're 60, they'll forget something when they're tired at 11 o'clock at night, too."

Actually, Sen. Clinton's March 17 remarks were part of a prepared speech, delivered at 9 a.m.

"Hillary called me and said, 'Look I misstated it, you said I misstated it, but you gotta let me handle that because you don't remember it either. So I'm going to let her answer," he told CNN affiliate WTHI Friday.

Bill Clinton said he told his wife, "Yes, ma'am.''

The former president was off message -- a sign he's becoming a distraction for his wife's campaign.

During the course of the primary campaign, opinion of Bill Clinton has flipped from positive to negative -- 55 percent positive in February to 51 percent negative in March, according to a Diageo/Hotline Poll.

The poll was taken March 28-31 of registered voters, with a sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

Democrats still like the former president, but his negatives have gone up among them, too.

According to the same poll, Bill Clinton's negatives went from 13 percent in February to 22 percent in March.

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Sen. Clinton has acknowledged she and her husband have different positions on trade. He has earned $800,000 from supporters of Colombia Free Trade Bill, which she opposes.

It is hard to blame a man for defending his wife. But these are distractions her campaign does not need. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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