Hillary and Bill Clinton have ruled the chessboard of Democratic politics for so long that almost no move they make comes as a surprise. But the image of a former First Couple swapping roles with a past President trying to be a supportive spouse and a First Lady emerging as a presidential front runner looking for restitution and restoration proved a media bonanza, a clashing intraparty cause for concern and elation, and a curiosity for the public. Senator Clinton played the POTUS card shrewdly. She regularly recalled the "good old days" of the 1990s when her husband's Administration brought peace and prosperity and alternately referred to him cozily as "Bill" or pointedly as "the President." Bill Clinton, meanwhile, made an early effort to avoid overshadowing her with his famously omnivorous personality but eventually stepped up to play a major strategic role in her campaign. Sometimes he demonstrated flashes of his old brilliance, but by his own account, he was rusty; there were days when he hurt his wife's chances more than he helped. When the son of a President ran for the office in 2000, former President George H.W. Bush and wife Barbara worked for their boy from behind the scenes. But the Clintons ran much as they had in 1992, as two for the price of one. Many Democratic voters fondly recalled the finer moments of the Clinton years and believed Hillary was ready to be President from Day One, with her husband by her side in the White House to offer guidance and advice.
But the back-to-the-future pitch had a clear downside as well. As an adviser to Barack Obama said at the height of the Obama-Clinton battle, "Bush, Clinton, Bush, Clinton that sure doesn't sound like change to me."