Former president Bill Clinton attends the Forbes' 2015 Philanthropy Summit Awards Dinner on June 3, 2015 in New York City.
Dimitrios Kambouris—Getty Images
June 12, 2015 9:10 PM EDT

Bill Clinton is providing low-key advice to Hillary Clinton’s campaign for president, two top aides said Friday.

Speaking at a panel discussion organized by Politico in New York City, Hillary Clinton communications director Jen Palmieri and campaign manager Robby Mook discussed the former president’s role in his wife’s campaign.

“He doesn’t come to every meeting we have, but he does join his wife often in some of our discussions, and I’m always fascinated to hear what his observation is going to be because it’s always something no one said,” Palmieri said. “We’re going to use him when we need him. He’s one of the most—if not the most—strategic political minds in the country.”

The former president has not accompanied his wife on the campaign trail, and has rarely appeared with her in public since she announced her candidacy. In an interview with Town and Country magazine earlier this year, Bill said that his role would primarily be as a “backstage adviser.”

Bill Clinton’s campaigning for his wife backfired in 2008, when in South Carolina he seemed to attribute Barack Obama’s victory in the early primary state to his race. But the former president has a deep knowledge of the ins and outs of campaigning, having won large victories in both 1992 and 1996.

That news that Bill is providing some advice to the campaign is consistent with what the Clinton camp has suggested in the past, but Friday evening’s discussion provided more insight into the former president’s involvement than ever before.

“He’s a really helpful big picture sounding board,” said Mook. “Another thing I remember him saying at one meeting is, ‘let’s major in the majors, not in the minors.’ He’s a really brilliant communicator.”

In early May, Bill Clinton’s chief of staff told the Washington Post that he is “not directly engaged in the campaign” but when his advice is asked for “he’s happy to give it.”

Mook also dismissed recent poll numbers that suggest Hillary Clinton’s favorability numbers are slipping. According to a CNN poll published last week, 57% of Americans think the former secretary of state is not trustworthy. “A lot of the public polling is not very reliable,” Mook said. “I don’t pay a whole lot of attention to it.”

Palmieri said that Clinton’s main goal in her campaign will be demonstrating that she is someone Americans can trust to fight for them and solve the big problems facing the country.

Hillary began campaigning in mid-April but will hold her first official campaign rally on Saturday on Roosevelt Island, in New York, where she will lay out her vision for the country and her rationale for her presidential bid.

Contact us at letters@time.com.

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