Hillary Clinton, the ultimate anti-feminist candidate?

Message: She’s nothing without her man.

After months of discussion within her campaign over how heavily she should draw on her husband’s legacy, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is closing out her Iowa and New Hampshire campaigns in a tight embrace of Bill Clinton’s record, helping fuel a debate about the 1990s with Sen. Barack Obama that she thinks she can win.

As part of the Clinton strategy, the former president is playing an increasingly prominent public role as an advocate for his wife. He appears to have overcome concerns within the campaign over how closely she should associate her candidacy with his time in office and over whether his appearances could draw attention away from her.

Both Clintons are making the case that theirs was a co-presidency — an echo of Bill Clinton’s controversial statement during the 1992 campaign that voters would get “two for the price of one” if they elected him. At times, the former president has seemed to cast the current race as a referendum on his administration.

Hillary’s problem is that she has tried just about everything else, from planting softball questions to trying to display an evidently non-existent human side to playing up her experience over Obama’s — experience that actually doesn’t amount to much of an advantage over his experience at all. Yet Obama just keeps gaining on her.

But doesn’t taking Bill’s legacy as if it’s her own render her as little more than a socket puppet or cut-out candidate that would put him into a shadow presidency? Doesn’t this make her the ultimate dependent? She literally can’t win the office without adopting her husband’s legacy as her own.

Among the many problems with the Clinton’s “restoration” approach is this: Clinton’s legacy bears a peculiar, er, stain.

At times, his pitch for his wife is focused so much on his own accomplishments as president that it almost sounds as if he himself is running for reelection. In a two-hour interview Thursday with the Concord Monitor, he referred to his having made a “terrible mistake” while president, an apparent reference to the Monica S. Lewinsky scandal, and then added: “The voters will have to make their own judgments about that. I’ve done everything I could, first of all, to try to be a good president and, secondly, to try to be a good after-president.”

The many Clintonistas who went to jail are also a part of their legacy. They’re putting all of that and more back on the table.