Donald Lambro

WASHINGTON -- As Bill and Hillary Clinton were campaigning in Iowa last week to put themselves back in the White House, a Democratic strategist warned their two-for-one strategy had trouble written all over it.

Dropping any pretense she is seeking the presidency in her own right, Hillary and her husband, former president Bill Clinton, campaigned arm in arm together in a Fourth of July swing through the first caucus state. The New York senator "embraced the role of virtual incumbent ... promising to restore conditions -- in the economy and in the government -- to the way they were during her husband's administration," the Washington Post's Anne Kornblut reported last week.

At a rally in Waterloo, the Clintons were introduced as "the once and future presidents," and Democrats saw in their joint appearance that they had made a calculated decision to run as co-presidents seeking restoration of the Clinton dynasty.

But even before the Clintons had set foot in Iowa, Donna Brazile, the longtime party official who managed Al Gore's presidential campaign in 2000, issued a blunt warning that their strategy could be a political disaster for the Democrats in 2008.

Bill Clinton's active campaign role in her wife's bid for the presidency could "end up doing more harm than good," Brazile wrote last week in her widely read column in Roll Call, the Capitol Hill newspaper.

"With Bill on the stump for anything other than fund-raising, the message becomes 'Restore the Clinton Regime -- Things Were Better Then," she said. "Not only does that undercut her candidacy by making voters question which Clinton they are electing, it repositions the campaign in the decidedly wrong direction: looking backward," the veteran party insider added.

Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, and Hillary's strongest rival, who also was campaigning in Iowa at the same time, pounced on the "backward" theme in Brazile's column.

While praising Bill Clinton, who remains wildly popular in his party, as a "terrific political strategist," Obama criticized the Clintons' strategy and, in a thinly veiled reference, seemed to remind Democrats of the deep divisions the Clinton administration had spawned through eight years of scandals. "What we're more interested in is looking forward, not in looking backward. I think the American people feel the same way. What they are looking for is a way to break out of the harsh partisanship and the old arguments -- and to solve problems," the freshman senator told the Associated Press on the campaign trail. Several motivations went into Hillary's decision to bring her husband into the campaign at this early juncture in the nomination race.

Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.