He followed that up with several episodes where he scolded the press for not focusing on issues that are important to voters. He appeared to inflict further damage on his wife's campaign a few weeks later, when he equated Obama's candidacy with Jesse Jackson's on the day of the South Carolina primary.
Just two weeks ago, when Pennsylvania voters were about to go to the polls, he told a radio interviewer that the Obama campaign "played the race card on me," prompting a fresh round of what's-wrong-with-Bill stories in the national media.
But from the Clinton campaign's perspective, there's nothing wrong with Bill that some time in small towns on the trail can't fix. The effort to deploy him to rural areas began in earnest in Texas, where he bounced between dusty border villages and oil-bust towns in a 1950s blue pickup truck. The crowds in Del Rio, Eagle Pass and Nagadoches loved the folksy jokes almost as much as his cowboy boots.
By the time the campaigns descended on Pennsylvania, where Clinton and Obama both spent a solid six weeks on the ground, the pickup truck was gone and the front porch was in. Instead of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, Bill Clinton spent his time in Milford, Somerset and Jim Thorpe, and crowds often lined the streets in the long stretches between stops.
In one typical event, perhaps 150 people spent a chilly afternoon with Clinton in an airport hangar in tiny Tobyhanna, Pa., home to roughly 6,100 northeastern Pennsylvanians.
When one man in the audience shouted that he, too, was from Arkansas, the locals started interjecting their observations even as Clinton spoke. He spent 45 minutes after the speech was through making sure that he shook every outstretched hand.
On the trail, he expresses wonky concepts with small-town analogies: Making decisions in Iraq is like making a dentist appointment, and not enforcing trade policies is like "slapping your local banker," he likes to say.
One favorite rhetorical flourish involves mocking Washington pundits. "Hillary has been buried by the pundits more times than a zombie," he said last week in Elkin, N.C.
And as he talks about the economy, his wife's experience and the successes of his administration, Clinton likes to remind potential voters that he's one of them.
"I love coming to places that don't normally see presidents, don't normally see presidential campaigns," he said at a recent stop in Boonville, Ind. "The backbone and the heartbeat of America -- places like Boonville. In my home state of Arkansas there's a Booneville, but it's not nearly as big as this. This is a downright metropolis compared to Booneville, Ark. But I'm honored to be here."