Is Former President Clinton Stealing the Spotlight?

Some say Clinton's tendency to talk about himself hurts his wife's campaign.

Jan. 24, 2008— -- A few days before South Carolina's Democratic primary, Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., has been in and out of the Palmetto State, leaving some of the campaigning up to her husband.

While Bill Clinton is popular there, his headline-making scuffles with reporters, and tendency to talk about himself, rather than his wife, have some wondering whether he is hurting more than helping.

The former president has been tirelessly campaigning on behalf of his wife since he arrived in South Carolina yesterday. He attended three different events, ending the last one around 11:30 p.m., almost 12 hours after he landed in the state.

After little sleep (rumor has it that he was playing cards until 3:30 a.m.) he started again this morning at 8:30 a.m. Though he looked tired, he didn't miss a beat.

At a campaign event this morning, Clinton defended his wife's six-year tenure on Wal-Mart's board of directors, saying that she advocated for more environmentally friendly practices, as well as more American-based production.

He went on to praise his wife's work on the board, but couldn't help talking about himself.

"The reason I know all this stuff, is that this is what I do now," he said. "I try to figure out how to reduce greenhouse gases and create jobs."

It's become an emerging theme in his campaign events: Bill Clinton starts out talking about Hillary Clinton, and what she can do in the White House, then slowly slips in a "we," and then an "I," talking about his accomplishments as both president and foundation leader.

When asked a question about how Hillary would combat rural poverty, in a campaign event in Orangeburg, he started with what he had accomplished.

"First, let me say I want to claim some credibility on this — when I was president, we moved almost 8 million [people] from poverty to the middle class," Clinton said, adding, "This is a big priority for me, for our family."

Another audience member asked how Hillary would work to lower the rate of preventable diseases, such as diabetes, and the former president almost seemed to forget to mention his wife at all.

"I already told you about the AIDS work we do, but in my post-foundation life, I run a national project with the American Heart Association, to fight childhood obesity and the explosion of diabetes among young people," he said. "This is the biggest threat to health care."

Clinton went on to talk about what his foundation has done for diabetes, and, for 15 minutes, how he has personally seen the epidemic around the country, before getting to the plan Hillary would put in place.

He didn't only have strong opinions on what should be done to combat diabetes, but also offered some of his policy ideas about the economy, Iraq and global warming.

"In the short run, this highly complicated economic problem must be addressed," Clinton said, responding to a question about what he thought, as a former president, were the most important issues to address. "Next, I'm most concerned with extricating ourselves from Iraq as quickly as we can, without making it worse. Over the long run, I'm concerned about not doing something about global warming."

And while he did bring the subject back to Hillary, saying that she will be ready, on day one, to take on all of these issues, and the many others that will come in, some voters were left wondering whether he was stealing the spotlight from his wife.

"It detracts me from supporting Hillary, by far," undecided South Carolina voter Dave Slimmer said of Bill Clinton's enormous presence in the campaign. "I think he is having too much of an influence in it, too much say, too many things meddling."

Other voters agree. Martha Fogie, who is undecided, but leaning towards Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, thinks Bill Clinton needs to tone it down.

"It's a good thing to support your wife, but I think he has gone overboard," Fogie said. "I think they are using him as the bad cop, good cop scenario, and I am very disappointed."

Hillary Clinton defended her husband in a debate, Monday night, and said that he was not overshadowing her.

"I think that he is very much advocating on my behalf," Clinton said. "And I appreciate that. He is a tremendous asset. And he feels very strongly about this country, and what's at stake, and what our future should be." However, she added that "this campaign is not about our spouses. It is about us."

Bill Clinton seemed to acknowledge that he might have to tone it down, when one woman at an event said she was sick of seeing all of the "bickering and baiting" between Hillary and Obama.

"That is pretty good advice," he said. "It is interesting, that is probably good advice for me, too. This is a lot harder for me than campaigning for myself ever was. When I was running, I didn't give a rip what anyone was saying about me. But when you love someone, it is harder."

ABC's Sarah Amos contributed to this report.