WASHINGTON (TIP): Eight years after aggressively defending his wife during her first presidential campaign, Bill Clinton was unusually understated and subdued Monday during his first solo swing back in New Hampshire for Hillary Clinton, restraining himself even in the face of taunts from Donald Trump.

Sticking mostly to descriptions of Hillary Clinton’s policy positions and biography, the former president made only glancing references to her opponents, saying that some were “kind of scary” but not naming names. He also suggested that he would not thrive politically today because he was not “mad at anybody,” an implicit jab at Trump’s harsh attacks on Muslims and others — and a signal that Trump had not gotten under Bill Clinton’s skin.

With Trump campaigning Monday night just across the state line in Lowell, Massachusetts, Clinton did not bring up his onetime friend’s recent attacks on Clinton’s history of extramarital affairs. But after the first of his two campaign events, Clinton did respond to a reporter’s question about whether his own past was “fair game” to talk about in the race.

“The Republicans have to decide who they want to nominate,” Clinton replied. “I think there’s always attempts to take the election away from people, so I’m just going to give it to them.”

At a rally in Lowell, Massachusetts, just a few miles from New Hampshire, Trump, calling himself “a messenger in a sense,” harshly criticized Hillary Clinton but did not mention Bill Clinton. In an interview, Trump said he brought up Bill Clinton’s past simply as a response to provocation. “I would be inclined to just let it go” if the Clintons never again accused him of sexism, Trump said.

If Bill Clinton was champing at the bit to attack Trump, he gave no sign of it Monday.

Famed as the Big Dog of American politics, Bill Clinton seemed to be on a tight leash during his appearances in Nashua and Exeter, delivering performances far different from the ones he gave in 2008, when some Democrats criticized him for overshadowing Hillary Clinton with his attacks on then-Sen. Barack Obama.

(NYT News Service)