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  •   Clinton: Wife 'Would Be Terrific' as a U.S. Senator

    U.S. First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton
    Hillary Rodham Clinton smiles as she waits for a joint statement by her husband and Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo on Monday. (Reuters)
    By Peter Baker
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Tuesday, February 16, 1999; Page A10

    TEMOZON, Mexico, Feb. 15 If first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton is seriously thinking about running for the U.S. Senate from New York, she isn't saying so yet. But at least one well-placed source suggested today that she is taking a hard look at it.

    President Clinton told reporters during a brief visit to Mexico that his wife "would be terrific in the Senate" and that he would support her "enthusiastically" if she chooses to run. While many supporters have been lobbying her to run, he added, she needs a chance to reflect before making a decision.

    "She'd be great if she did it," he said at a photo opportunity with Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo. "But she hasn't had anything like the requisite amount of time to talk to people and to assess it, and I'm sure that everyone will understand and appreciate it."

    His comments were the most explicit suggestion to date that the Hillary Clinton-for-Senate campaign may be more than just a pipe dream among Empire State Democrats seeking a strong candidate to take on New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani (R) for the seat being vacated by Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D) in 2000.

    That Hillary Clinton has not quashed the talk initially viewed skeptically has encouraged many to assume she is interested. She has met with a number of key New York Democrats who have urged her to run and plans to meet with more in the coming weeks. State law is loose enough to allow her to run even though she would not maintain a full-time residence there.

    Neither of the Clintons had commented publicly on the idea before today and the president's words indicated that he, at least, appeared to be taking it seriously. Although the question came as reporters were being ushered out of his meeting with Zedillo, Clinton clearly wanted to address the matter. He motioned for aides to let the cameras stay long enough to give an answer.

    The president said the speculation was started by supporters rather than the White House. "I don't think it had ever occurred to her before a lot of people started calling and asking her to do it," he said. "I think she would be terrific in the Senate, but that's a decision that she'll have to make." Both of them, he added, "would like to continue to be useful in public affairs when we leave office."

    If Clinton's words were intriguing but fuzzy, that appeared to be no accident. "The president was particularly unclear on that subject today," his spokesman Joe Lockhart said later, "and I have nothing to say to clear it up."

    Neither did the first lady or her staff. But her other friends in the administration were happy to keep the buzzing alive. "Anyone who knows her knows she would be a great public servant," said Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright, who often travels overseas with the first lady.

    © Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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