Hillary Rodham Clinton is coming back to New York today, for yet another prearranged visit that just happens to coincide with her possible interest in pursuing a job there. As they like to say in the first lady's press office, "this trip was planned long ago."

Still, what timing! New York's Democratic elites are no longer atwitter about Clinton's possible race for Senate. The word on the street that she's in, she's "almost definitely" in, she's "basically decided" she's in, she's "in unless she changes her mind."

Yesterday's gossip was that she is Getting Her Team In Place. There's top adviser Harold Ickes and loyal consultant Mandy Grunwald. But yesterday, Clinton met at the White House with New York politico Hank Morris, who coordinated the strategy that helped Rep. Charles E. Schumer defeat Sen. Alfonse M. D'Amato last year, and with moneywoman Gabrielle Fialkoff, who raised the money that did not stop City Council Speaker Peter Vallone from getting thrashed by Gov. George E. Pataki (R) last year.

"Obviously, she's still operating from the assumption that she's in," one Democratic insider said. "We're all operating from that assumption. But you never know."

The next step would be to form an exploratory committee, which last month's buzz said could happen after the first family's trip to Florida -- i.e., now -- but now seems likely to happen early next month, after Hillary Clinton returns from Germany and the Middle East. Today, all she's going to do is speak at the City College of New York commencement, appear at the annual New York Democratic labor luncheon and raise money for Rep. Carolyn Maloney.

"Until she says it publicly, it's not a done deal," one Democrat said. "But wow. It sure looks like she's in."

Iowa to See GOP Bumper Crop

June 12 is going to be a busy day for Iowa Republicans. That is the day Texas Gov. George W. Bush comes a-calling for the first time anywhere as a fellow who is, technically speaking, exploring a candidacy for the presidency.

But some of Bush's rivals won't let him have the Iowa stage to himself, even for a day. Yesterday, Elizabeth Dole said she is planning a one-day foray into the Hawkeye state on June 12 -- for what she pointedly noted would be her eighth day of campaigning there this year. Her press spokesman added, "You can expect straight talk" from her -- not just airy generalizations from You Know Who."

But wait, there is more. Lamar Alexander will be in Des Moines that day, talking to the pork producers' convention. And Ohio Rep. John R. Kasich will be there as well. Dan Quayle will not be campaigning that day, but he has an excuse. He will be with his mother on her birthday.

Right-Wing Conspiracy Revisited

President Clinton has discovered a vast right-wing conspiracy -- not aimed at removing him from office but blocking Vice President Gore's path to the Oval Office. In 850,000 fund-raising letters sent yesterday by the Gore campaign, Clinton warns that "powerful forces want to keep Al Gore from this mission" of succeeding Clinton.

He's talking about the Republicans, not Bill Bradley, Gore's rival for the Democratic nomination. Clinton doesn't actually name the Republicans but he says these "powerful forces" are the people who "struggled against our economic plan . . . shut the government down . . . and tried to poison our country with partisanship."

But there's good news: "Al Gore can stop them."

Buchanan Hammers Foes on Kosovo

If Patrick J. Buchanan has his way, the hostilities in Kosovo are going to be an issue in the 2000 campaign. Lighting into Republican rivals Bush, Dole, Malcolm S. "Steve" Forbes and Arizona Sen. John McCain, all of whom have supported the bombing campaign, as "virtual Xerox copies" of Clinton and Gore, the third-time candidate declared "I am unalterably opposed" to continuing or expanding the Balkan war.

"This war is a historic blunder that may prove the ruin of the most successful alliance in history," he said yesterday in a speech at the National Press Club. "It is an illegal and unconstitutional war, launched without authorization by Congress. There is not now, and there never has been, any vital U.S. interest in whose flag flies over Pristina."

Buchanan took direct issue with McCain, who has argued for a ground-force invasion of Serbia if bombing fails to force the Serbs out of Kosovo. "If a war is unjust or unwise -- or unwinnable except at exorbitant cost -- you do not send 200,000 soldiers to rectify the blunder. You seek an armistice and end it . . . and let the blunderers go off somewhere and write their memoirs." As for Forbes's suggestion that NATO arm the Kosovo Liberation Army, Buchanan said, "That would ensure an Afghanistan-type war between Muslims and Christians in . . . Europe."

Christian Coalition Reorganizes

The Christian Coalition is undergoing another management reorganization, with founder Pat Robertson taking more control over the operations and public statements of the political organization.

He has eliminated the position of executive director, the title held by former representative Randy Tate since Ralph Reed's resignation in 1997. Tate becomes a senior vice president, based in Washington, in charge of public policy and government relations for the coalition. In other words, lobbying Congress.

Spokesman Mike Russell said, "It's safe to say that Pat is going to take an even more active role in the organization's day-to-day activities and is going to be commenting on a wide array of issues that impact the pro-family movement."

Staff writers David S. Broder and Thomas B. Edsall contributed to this report.