DAVENPORT, Iowa - Hillary Rodham Clinton left caucus-goers here yesterday believing that Bubba had given her a baptism by fire in how to deal with "evil and bad men." Clinton's quip, made during a morning rally with about 500 Iowans, drew 31 seconds of straight laughter and applause that left little doubt among attendees that she'd made a joke at hubby Bill Clinton's expense. The one-liner came in response to a question shouted at the former first lady from the audience asking whether she had the mettle and experience to deal with evil and rotten men - like terrorist Osama bin Laden and the tyrants of North Korea and Iran. Clinton grabbed the mike and told the audience that the questioner wanted to know "what in my background equips me to deal with evil and bad men." She then smiled, raised her eyebrows and nodded knowingly at the questioner. Her nod and the ensuing eruption of laughter had rally-goers convinced she was talking about her husband, whose Oval Office affair with intern Monica Lewinsky exploded into the Sexgate scandal and led to impeachment proceedings. "She was talking about Bill being a bad man. There was no doubt whatsoever," said Tyrone Williams, 55, an engineer from nearby Bettendorf, Iowa. His sentiment was the interpretation echoed by many other attendees interviewed by The Post. "That was good," Williams added with a chuckle. Later, during an afternoon press conference, Clinton deflected questions about the intended target of her jab. But when told that her quip had left the impression it was Bill, she said, "Oh, come on. I don't think anybody in there thought that. I thought I was funny. You know, you guys keep telling me, 'Lighten up. Be funny.' You know, I get a little funny and now I'm being psychoanalyzed." Initially, she explained, "I repeated the question because the gentleman . . . listed quite a number of some of the worst actors in our world today, including Osama bin Laden. I was thinking to myself, 'I think I could do a pretty good job.' " Coming across as likeable - and electable - goes a long way in Iowa for Clinton, who, despite being the front-runner in national Democratic polls, trails rivals John Edwards and Barack Obama in Hawkeye State polls. And Clinton's act over the weekend may be a tough one to follow. "I'm very impressed. Barack Obama will have to show something above and beyond to surpass what I heard today," said Sandra Frericks, a retired financial planner from Bluegrass, Iowa.