THE NOTE: Bill Off-Message for Wife’s Campaign

Five reasons we know Saturday's Jefferson Jackson Dinner in Des Moines is a Big Deal:

1. Bill Clinton is taking the blame for collapse of healthcare reform. (Was the driver's license answer his, too?)

2. Sen. Barack Obama is taking on two Clintons for the price of one. ("My understanding is that President Clinton is not on the ballot" -- does his understanding dictate the race?)

3. Sen. Hillary Clinton is taking an off day to let her voice recover (and working on new tipping techniques, no doubt).

4. Obama is taking his call for troops to black-and-white. (Is there a message there?)

5. Former senator John Edwards can take all the Chunky Monkey and Cherry Garcia he can eat. (Does "Un-Hillary" work as an ice-cream flavor?)

If it's getting late early in Iowa, the Bill Clinton solo tour is welcoming the evening. The former president -- on his own this week in the Hawkeye State -- remains an undeniably popular phenomenon, a crowd-pleaser, fund-raising weapon, and strategist wrapped into one neat political package.

Or maybe not so neat. The last few days have shown that the former president is consulting his own playbook. "She has taken the rap for some of the problems we had with healthcare . . . that were far more my fault than hers," he said Thursday in Iowa. (What is that "experience" she's citing, then, anyway?)

This comes in the wake of the post-debate "swift-boating" comparison (which was hyped into more than it was, as ABC's Jake Tapper reminds us, but remains a distraction for the campaign. And, of course, there's those still-sealed Clinton presidential library records, as well as the continuing aftermath of Sen. Clinton's weakest debate performance of the cycle.

Could it be that -- at this critical moment -- Camp Clinton can't control its chief surrogate? (As if anybody could?) "His unexpected difficulty with the media freakshow may be a matter of style," Ben Smith writes in a smart take.

"Though Clinton is justifiably heralded as perhaps the quintessential retail politician and political communicator of his generation, contemporary political coverage -- broken up as it is into tiny blog items and wire dispatches, further chewed on by partisan blogs and opposition research shops -- doesn't favor his style," Smith writes. "He plays jazz to her classical music, as one longtime Clinton associate puts it."

Obama, D-Ill., was curt in his response. "If part of your basis for experience is that work that you did on health care, then presumably when it didn't work that's part of the experience as well," Obama said, per ABC's David Wright and Sunlen Miller.

Obama was more expansive on the bus with The Washington Post's Dan Balz and Shailagh Murray -- and his goal remains nothing short of blowing up American politics as we know it. (Really, senator -- Mississippi?) Obama: "Whatever arguments you want to make for Hillary Clinton, I don't think anybody believes that somehow the election is going to be significantly different than 2000 or 2004, that different states or different congressional districts suddenly come into play, that she brings in a whole new group of voters that might not have voted before."

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