GREENVILLE, S.C. — Bill Clinton finally had a good day Tuesday: His only mistake was the color of his tie.
Campaigning in University of South Carolina country, Clinton sported a bright Clemson-orange tie instead of Gamecocks garnet.
"I left all my red ties at home," Clinton apologized to Russell Pardee, a voter who called Clinton on it at a Columbia diner.
Given the criticism recently piled on the former president as he became wife Hillary Clinton's chief attack dog against Democratic presidential rival Barack Obama, a tie gaffe is nothing. It's been so bad that influential African-American Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., warned him to "chill," and other leading Democrats admonished Clinton.
Blacks likely will make up a majority of the voters Saturday in South Carolina's Democratic primary. Some voters said the dust-up — which has touched on race, Obama's alleged admiration of Ronald Reagan and the consistency of Obama's opposition to the Iraq war — soured them on Clinton.
"He used to be my boyfriend, but I have no respect for him for the remarks that he's been making," said Bennie Bayard, 60, a black retiree from Greenville who attended an Obama rally. But Gracie Garrison, also a black retiree from Greenville, said she remains committed to Hillary Clinton because "I think she'd be the best president. She's the most experienced." Garrison added that she wasn't influenced by the kerfuffle because "Obama started it."
Asked about his behavior Tuesday morning before tucking into a breakfast of fried eggs and grits, Clinton replied: "I'm pretty chilled out, don't you think?"
Clinton remained chilled out later at town hall meetings in Aiken and Greenville, abandoning what Obama adviser David Axlerod called his "bad cop" routine and what Obama called distortions.
Instead, Clinton heaped praise on Obama and former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards for their public service, insisting, "I love this election because I don't have to be against anybody. ...I like these people."
His only criticism of Obama was on health care, where he said Obama's plan would leave as many as 15 million uninsured. Both Hillary Clinton's and John Edwards' plans mandate coverage for all.
Clinton did distort some things on Tuesday — but to his and his wife's benefit, not to her opponents' expense.
He continued the mythology that the campaign has built around Hillary Clinton's legal career: "She could have taken a job with a firm ... instead she went to work with Marian Wright Edelman at the Children's Defense Fund."
In fact, Hillary Clinton worked less than two years at the Children's Defense Fund. She spent the bulk of her career — 15-plus years — as a corporate lawyer at the Rose Law Firm in Little Rock, Ark., serving on corporate boards and earning a six-figure salary.
Clinton boasted about his hybrid "Mercury mini-SUV that gets 39 miles to the gallon," even as he regularly circles the globe by private jet and in motorcades featuring multiple full-sized, gas-guzzling SUVs.
And he was as full of contradictions as ever. Hours after criticizing reporters in Columbia for focusing on the "spat" between Obama and Hillary Clinton at the Monday debate, Clinton told voters in Greenville: "I kind of liked seeing Barack and Hillary fight last night. They're real people. Neither one of them is supposed to be this wind-up doll who's supposed to behave a certain way. ...I like this. I think it's exciting."
Still, it's clear that Clinton is catnip to Democratic voters, as he touts his wife's plans and record and defends his own legacy (he never fails to list his successes in office during speeches on his wife's behalf). Most questions he took from voters were softballs or sweet talk.
"I've just adored you forever, so whatever you do is alright with me," one woman told him in Greenville.
Clinton's infamous temper flashed briefly when a Greenville voter asked if Clinton felt he was standing in Obama's way as the Illinois senator tries to become the first black president.
"I'm not standing in his way," Clinton snapped. "Nobody has a right to be president."
But Clinton quickly chilled out.
"I think she'd be a better president at this point in history," Clinton said. "I hope I get a chance to vote for him someday."
(William Douglas contributed to this report.)