A day before campaign strategies collide in high-stakes South Carolina, an uneasy cease-fire appeared to descend on the Democratic race: The attack ads are down, the rhetoric is suddenly restrained, and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton on Friday made a plea for party unity.
"I think all of us need to just take a deep breath here, because obviously we know we'll have a united Democratic Party once this nomination is determined," Clinton, D-N.Y., told Robin Roberts on ABC's "Good Morning America.
As for whether her campaign is "two for the price of one," as her husband famously described his 1992 bid, she said: "I'm running. I'm running to be the president. I will have responsibility for the decisions."
Credit fatigue or (quite frayed) nerves -- but it almost looks like a truce is in place in the Democratic race, as Saturday's South Carolina primary approaches. The vicious radio ads are down, replaced by a new Clinton spot where Bill Clinton touts his wife's credentials to lead a "comeback."
And yet . . . that's not quite the whole story, not with the spouses still feuding, the hourly conference calls arranged to slam rival campaigns, and -- of course -- Bill Clinton still very present on the trail. The Clinton campaign's election-eve event will be a joint appearance at a rally in Charleston Friday at 9:30 pm ET.
"This is classic, classic good-cop, bad-cop," ABC's George Stephanopoulos said after Sen. Clinton's appearance on "GMA."
If you think this battle is over . . . you don't know Bill Clinton. "Advisers to Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton say they have concluded that Bill Clinton's aggressive politicking against Senator Barack Obama is resonating with voters, and they intend to keep him on the campaign trail in a major role after the South Carolina primary," Patrick Healy writes in The New York Times.
"The benefits of having Mr. Clinton challenge Mr. Obama so forcefully, over Iraq and Mr. Obama's record and statements, they say, are worth the trade-offs of potentially overshadowing Mrs. Clinton at times, undermining his reputation as a statesman and raising the question among voters about whether they are putting him in the White House as much as her."
In other words, Bill is inside Barack's head. "Mr. Clinton is deliberately trying to play bad cop against Mr. Obama, campaign officials say, and is keenly aware that a flash of anger or annoyance will draw even more media and public attention to his arguments," Healy continues. James Carville (kind of maybe more than just a fan of this strategy): "Does the president risk going overboard? Sure. But Obama runs a risk of being wussified."
Here's another reason to keep Bill on the trail: "It was impossible not to notice that in her two appearances today, [Hillary] Clinton drew almost entirely white audiences, in a state where half of Democratic voters are African-American," Marcella Bomardieri reports in The Boston Globe. "Her husband, long popular with black voters, has drawn much more mixed crowds."
Can anyone recall a single thing that Hillary Clinton -- you know, the one who's running -- has said in the last 48 hours? And where has Bill Clinton gone that he HASN'T made news? That's one reason that Bill Clinton is ABC's Buzz Maker of the Week.