Watch CBSN Live

Bill Clinton backs Rick Perry on immigration

Former President Bill Clinton speaks at the Clinton Foundation's "Decade of Difference" concert on Oct. 15, 2011, in Hollywood, Calif. ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images

Despite all the heat Rick Perry has taken for his stance on immigration, at least one politician is willing to go to bat for the Texas governor's record on the issue: Former President Bill Clinton.

Clinton, in an interview with USA Today, praised Perry for passing the so-called Texas DREAM Act, which grants undocumented immigrants in-state college tuition if they have lived in Texas for at least three years and have graduated from high school or obtained a GED certificate.

"It makes my skin crawl when they attack Rick Perry for one of the best things he did," Clinton said. "What would they like? Would they like the kid to stand on a corner and sell dope or something?"

Clinton, who is promoting his upcoming book "Back to Work," which comes out on Tuesday, conceded that he thinks that "most of what [GOP presidential candidates are] debating is crazy," but that Democrats shouldn't make the mistake of writing them off.

"It's always a mistake to underestimate your opponent," Clinton said. "People grow in these campaigns. How many times have you seen somebody get better in the course of an election? And it's also unpredictable what happens."

The former president, who told USA Today he wrote the book in the space of a few months after the 2010 midterm elections, said he thought President Obama was in "pretty good shape" when it comes to his re-election prospects - despite the fact that Republicans are "banking on" him taking a hit for the nation's continued economic woes.

"Well, that's what the Republicans are banking on," he said. "But the American people have a funny way of figuring. If they decide that the unemployment rate is that high because the Congress refused to work with the president and their numbers remain markedly lower than his, he might win anyway. I still think he's in pretty good shape."

Still, Clinton offered some criticism of how Democrats handled the 2010 campaign cycle. In his book, he argues that Democrats failed to articulate a strong message in the lead-up to the elections, and as a consequence were unable to effectively combat the Republican message.

"The Democrats did not counter the national Republican message with one of their own," Clinton writes in "Back to Work." "There was no national advertising campaign to explain and defend what they had done and to compare their agenda for the next two years with the GOP proposals."

He says that he and Vice President Joe Biden came up with a set of "talking points" for Democratic volunteers to present while going door-to-door, but that "We couldn't persuade the decision-makers to" agree on them.

"Vice President Biden... and I tried to get the Democratic National Committee to send out a centralized set of talking points to its large e-mail list so Democratic foot soldiers would at least have some good ammunition for their phone and door-to-door campaigns," Clinton writes. "We couldn't persuade the decision-makers to do so."

In an interview with the New York Times, Obama campaign strategist David Axelrod said "We appreciate his insights and his advocacy."

View CBS News In