Dickerson: Bill Clinton double-edged sword for Obama


(CBS News) Former President Bill Clinton is a double-edged sword for President Obama's re-election efforts, CBS News Political Director John Dickerson said Tuesday.

The former president is "about as important as a surrogate can be for a candidate. He can't sway the election, but he is obviously beloved within the Democratic party," Dickerson said on "CBS This Morning."

"He can raise money, he can rally the troops and he has got a natural political instinct, which means that he can coin a phrase or lay out an attack line the president never could, and it's the kind of thing that could get passed along from voter to voter in conversation," Dickerson said.

At the same time, he is "also sort of a big St. Bernard bounding around the political landscape saying what he wants and it's difficult for the Obama team to quiet him down if he says something that might be slightly off message."

Dickerson noted that Mr. Clinton has urged Mr. Obama to stop attacking presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney's past record and start talking about the ideological differences between the two men and what the future would look like if Romney were to win the White House.

"When he said that out loud, it was about as strong a memo as you can put out there in public" and that is a "message problem" for the Obama campaign, Dickerson noted.