Bill Clinton played down expectations for Sen. Hillary Clinton's performance in the Iowa caucuses, saying it is a "miracle" that she is even competitive in the state as he brushed off rival Barack Obama as too green to run for the White House.
The former president, who has been campaigning tirelessly for the Democratic frontrunner as slipping polls and a series of gaffes have threatened her campaign, made the comments in an interview with host Charlie Rose on PBS Friday. Clinton also suggested the Illinois senator was running strong because his home state and Iowa share a border, and said voters would be taking a "risk" if they elected Obama.
Obama rejected Clinton's comments at a press conference Saturday.
"When I was 20 points down, they all thought I was a wonderful guy. Obviously things have changed here in Iowa and elsewhere," Obama said. "If they're suggesting that I, as this 'callow youth,' somehow had a structural advantage in Iowa relative to the Clinton operation and the former president of the United States, that doesn't strike me as a real plausible argument."
According to a transcript of the interview posted by Real Clear Politics, Clinton said former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards might even win Iowa, after explaining that the state poses a challenge for his wife.
"So my view of this is that I never thought she had a big lead in Iowa and never thought she could have one. Now Iowa people have been really fair to her. They've listened to her," Bill Clinton said. "But I think it's a miracle that Hillary's got a chance to win. She might win this thing in Iowa. And I'm not low-balling it. You can look at the facts here. I think it's a miracle, because of the way the thing has played out."
Clinton didn't rule out the possibility that his wife could carry Iowa, but complained that Republicans were ganging up on her in debates.
As Hillary Clinton prepares for a five-day, 99-county Iowa tour with her campaign beginning Sunday, her poll numbers are running low in the final stretch before the Jan. 3 caucuses.
A Newsweek poll of 395 likely voters taken from Dec. 5 to Dec. 6 showed Obama with 35 percent, Clinton with 29 percent and former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards with 18 percent in Iowa.
Clinton still leads by double-digits nationally.
In the interview, Bill Clinton touted his wife's experience and said she would be the "best president."
He said Obama might not be ready.
"In theory, we could find someone who is a gifted television commentator," Clinton told Rose. "And let them run. They'd have only one year less experience in national politics (than Obama)."
Clinton praised Obama's political skills, but suggested voters would be taking a risk in electing somebody so fresh.
"If you listen to the people who are most strongly for him, they say basically we have to throw away all these experienced people because they have been through the wars of the '90s ... And what we want is somebody who started running for president a year after he became a senator because he's fresh, he's new, he's never made a mistake, and he has massive political skills. And we're willing to risk it," Clinton said. "And I, even when I was a governor and young and thought I was the best politician in the Democratic Party, I didn't run the first time. I could have."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.