Diverting from their vacation schedule, President Clinton and first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton flew from Martha's Vineyard to New York's Westchester County for a brief round of house hunting in advance of Hillary Clinton's expected bid next year for the Senate from New York.
The Clintons, along with daughter Chelsea, squeezed the house hunting trip into a day that also brought them here to the wealthy seashore communities of Long Island for two days of intense political fund-raising both for the Democratic Party and the first lady's expected Senate bid.
For her, it was the second house hunting trip during the first eight days of the family's two-week vacation. Unbeknown even to reporters who travel with the Clintons, she managed to slip away from Martha's Vineyard last Saturday on a government plane to look at real estate, administration officials said today. That trip also was to Westchester, the largely wealthy New York suburb where the first family has decided to establish residence in the run-up to the first lady's candidacy and her husband's presidential retirement.
Today's low-key Westchester visit--with no police escort and only a small motorcade--took them to the community of Chappaqua, where they viewed a five-bedroom, four-story Georgian colonial on 1.1 acres, listed at $1,695,000. It has a pool.
It was the only house they viewed today, but it is not clear how it ranks with other residences they have seen. The president described the house as "very nice" but added, "We don't have an announcement to make."
Neither of the Clintons would say how close they are to making a bid on a property. The president said earlier in the day he wanted "some place nice and airy that will make Hillary happy. That's what I want."
Kathy Sloane, a real estate broker who has been advising Hillary Clinton on the house search, declined to comment on the state of play but said during a brief phone interview that the two hours the Clintons spent at the Chappaqua house was a substantial amount of time to thoroughly evaluate it.
Although she is not legally required to establish residency until Election Day next year, Clinton is moving quickly to put down roots in this state where her opponents have tagged her a political "carpetbagger." Noting that she has never lived or worked in the state, critics of her exploratory Senate bid have made her outsider status a focal point. If she decides to run, she will face Republican New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, who also has not declared his candidacy.
Clinton is preparing for the potentially grueling and expensive contest by raising a great deal of money during her summer vacation. By Labor Day, her take should be about $600,000, one of her aides, Howard Wolfson, has said.
The Clintons attended several fund-raising events on Martha's Vineyard, then arrived here on Long Island today for the first of two days of fund-raising amid the haunts of the well-heeled in the Hamptons. The events are expected to rake in about $1.8 million, to be shared by Hillary Clinton's exploratory campaign, the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
Addressing 300 people who paid $1,000 each for barbecued ribs and chicken wings with the Clintons on the lawn of Liz Robbins, a longtime friend and Washington lobbyist, the president said of the first lady: "If you want somebody who has thought about this stuff and worked hard and always tried to do it for other people for 30 years, who has more heart, more intelligence, more ability and more commitment than any person I have ever known . . . then you ought to send her to the Senate and give her a chance to serve."
He related a conversation from their walk on a beach on Friday: "I said, 'I hope you are not tired of this after all these years,' and she said, 'No, it's still very interesting to me.' She said, 'You may be a lot of things, but you are not boring.' "
Tonight, the partying for dollars continued with a larger event thrown for the DNC's Saxophone Club, started in 1992 for younger, less well-heeled donors and supporters, at the East Hampton Executive (airport) Terminal. A total of 850 people paid $250 each.
After staying overnight at the home of movie mogul Steven Spielberg, the Clintons will attend two more money events Sunday--a $1,000-per-person lunch at the home of fashion designer Vera Wang and a $25,000-per-couple DNC dinner in Bridgehampton--before flying to Skaneateles in New York's Finger Lakes region for more vacation fund-raising.
CAPTION: President Clinton and Hillary Rodham Clinton stop to chat with Osman Osmani and other residents in Chappaqua, N.Y.