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'The Big Dog' Bill Clinton Turns Into The Attack Dog Against Sanders In N.H.

Former President Bill Clinton campaigns for his wife, Hillary Clinton, on Sunday in Milford, NH.
Win McNamee
Getty Images
Former President Bill Clinton campaigns for his wife, Hillary Clinton, on Sunday in Milford, NH.

Former President Bill Clinton levied an extended criticism of Bernie Sanders at a campaign stop in which he took issue with "sexist" attacks against his wife.

In the stretch run before the New Hampshire primary, the former president accused Sanders' supporters of slinging vitriol toward Clinton's female supporters, citing the tale of one female blogger who was bullied online.

"She and other people who have gone online to defend Hillary, to explain why they supported her, have been subject to vicious trolling and attacks that are literally too profane often, not to mention sexist, to repeat." Clinton said Sunday, according to a lengthy account in The New York Times.

The former president also derided Sanders' talk of political revolution on the campaign trail.

"When you're making a revolution, you can't be too careful with the facts," Clinton said, citing Sanders' health-care proposals as unrealistic. "Is it good for America? I don't think so. Is it good for New Hampshire? I don't think so. ... The New Hampshire I knew would not have voted for me if I had done that."

Clinton's second-place finish in New Hampshire, nearly a quarter-century ago, in 1992 helped revive a campaign dogged by allegations of sexual misconduct. Hillary Clinton's 2008 victory in New Hampshire likewise helped revive, for a time, her unsuccessful campaign against Barack Obama.

Eight years ago, Clinton found a similar stance as an attack dog against Obama.

At a campaign stop in New Hampshire in January 2008, Clinton now infamously quipped about Obama's record on Iraq: "Give me a break. This whole thing is the biggest fairy tale I've ever seen."

It didn't work then, and it does not appear to be working now in the Granite State.

Sanders has been leading Clinton by double-digits in most polls leading up to the primary. While New Hampshire is fickle with polls, Sanders is facing strong expectations for a big win on Tuesday.

The strength of Sanders' candidacy is built, in part, on strong support from Millennial voters. Most of them are not old enough to have voted for or remember the Clinton White House. Sanders' college-age supporters weren't even born yet when Clinton won New Hampshire in 1992.

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Susan Davis is a congressional correspondent for NPR and a co-host of the NPR Politics Podcast. She has covered Congress, elections, and national politics since 2002 for publications including USA TODAY, The Wall Street Journal, National Journal and Roll Call. She appears regularly on television and radio outlets to discuss congressional and national politics, and she is a contributor on PBS's Washington Week with Robert Costa. She is a graduate of American University in Washington, D.C., and a Philadelphia native.