Is Martha’s Vineyard big enough for both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton?

VINEYARD HAVEN, Mass. - President Obama is spending yet another summer vacationing on Martha's Vineyard -- but this year, he's got some competition for star political visitor status: Hillary Clinton is coming too.

The former secretary of state will be signing her book "Hard Choices" here in Vineyard Haven Wednesday, just a few days after the president's weekend arrival.

Residents and vacationers on this island off of Cape Cod are no strangers to spotting presidents (the Clintons used to vacation here too), celebrities and dignitaries, all biking past clapboard houses, scarfing down a lobster roll or making an ice cream run.

Even when President Obama is on vacation in Martha's Vineyard, he still has to attend to the duties of the Oval Office. Lawrence Knutson, author of "Away from the White House: Presidential Escapes, Retreats, and Vacations," gives a look back at the origin of presidential vacations and the criticism that accompanies them. (Jayne W. Orenstein/The Washington Post)

 

But presence of both the sitting president and his formal political rival-turned-secretary of state-turned-possible 2016 candidate is sparking interest, intrigue and largely hypothetical questions about whether it would be cooler to catch a glimpse of the sitting president or get a book signed by someone who might one day succeed him.

"The island is abuzz," said Kimberly White, who was visiting with her family from New Jersey. "People are looking forward to getting a signed book and everyone is always looking to see the president."

Signs of their presence can already be felt on Main Street, where the president's visit has been marked with offerings of "Barock my world" ice cream and "Beef and Barack-oli" -- and Clinton will sign her book Wednesday afternoon at Bunch of Grapes, a bookstore that Obama and his family have patronized in the past.


President Barack Obama smiles while golfing at Farm Neck Golf Club, Sunday, Aug. 10, 2014, in Oak Bluffs, Mass., on the island of Martha's Vineyard. President Obama on Saturday left Washington for his familiar spot on Martha's Vineyard for a two-week summer vacation. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

Clinton's book is displayed on a center table to the right of "Everything I Know I Learned From a Little Golden Book" by Diane Muldrow, which is described by its publisher, Random House, as "A humorous 'guide to life' for grownups!"

Bunch of Grapes manager Molly Coogan said the bookstore was told Clinton can sign 1,000 books in two hours. Years ago, Clinton signed so many books at a Costco her hand cramped, according to reports.

Jody Underwood of Providence, Rhode Island bought four copies of "Hard Choices" at Bunch of Grapes Sunday evening. But instead of books, she got a receipt that she planned to give to a bookstore employee at the book signing in exchange for a book signed by Clinton.

Underwood, her wife and two other friends sailed to Martha's Vineyard from Providence, R.I., Sunday and read about the signing in the local paper. Underwood, who met Clinton during her last book tour, bolted to the bookstore to buy copies.

"It's very exciting to meet her," Underwood said. "I hope she runs for president."

Mary Rava of Wilton, Conn., didn't know Clinton was coming.

"They're both kind of exciting," she said. "I think the police here are going to be pretty darn busy that week."

Dave Fontaine of Delray Beach, Fla., said he thinks it's great that Clinton is coming and would like to get a book, but doesn't want to deal with the crowds. He is all but used to President Obama being here and thinks it's great -- but also remembers when the Clintons used to come for some time in the summer.

The Obamas "will probably have Hillary over for dinner. That's nice," Fontaine said.

But the two politicians probably aren't going to be passing burgers to one another this week: Obama and Clinton have no plans to meet up, according to the White House.

On the island Sunday, some residents and visitors speculated that Clinton wanted to capitalize on press that would already be on the island for Obama's visit. Others said they were intrigued, but felt another high-profile with a security detail could mean further snarls of already thick traffic, and even bigger crowds.

As George Shively sat outside a pizza place on a perfect Martha's Vineyard summer day, the sun high in the sky and boats bobbing in the nearby harbor, he didn't question why two of the biggest names in politics would come to the same small island in August -- he wondered how anyone could possibly bear to stay away.

"I don't blame them for wanting to come here at all," he said.

Katie Zezima covers the White House for Post Politics and The Fix.
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