The Donald says he would have a good chance to be The President if he jumped into the race.

So The Donald, otherwise known as New York developer Donald Trump, has formed an exploratory committee to help him determine whether to seek the Reform Party's nomination.

"We're looking at the very strong possibility that we could win--and not just the [third-party] nomination," Trump said in an interview with the Associated Press. "The polls have come out incredibly well. Based on this, and the support of Jesse [Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura] and other people, we're going to give it very serious consideration."

It was unclear which polls Trump was referring to. A Newsweek poll shows only 6 percent of respondents named him when asked who would make the most effective Reform Party candidate, compared with 24 percent who named Patrick J. Buchanan and 13 percent who mentioned Ventura. Trump fared better in another independent poll of registered voters who said they supported Ross Perot in 1996. In that poll, 32 percent said they'd vote for Buchanan, 29 percent for Trump.

Ventura, at Trump's request, traveled to New York yesterday for dinner with Trump. Ventura, who has not been supportive of a Buchanan candidacy, has said he was "intrigued" by the idea of Trump running. "Do I like him for the Reform Party?" Ventura said. "It depends if he likes the Reform Party."

Ventura spokesman John Wodele said the meeting was an opportunity that "might help [Ventura] in the long run to decide who he might support," adding, "He's encouraging anyone and everyone to run for president if they can embrace the Reform Party agenda."

Buchanan, for his part, met this week in Dallas with Reform Party Chairman Russell Verney, an ally of party founder Perot. Buchanan told reporters that he is "looking at it very hard right now" and that Verney "indicated receptivity to our candidacy. This is not an easy decision."

Clinton Takes Another Step Toward 2000

With each passing day, first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton's "exploratory campaign" for the Senate is plainly becoming less of an exploration and more of a campaign. The latest evidence: She has begun to accept $2,000 contributions.

Under federal election law, the most individuals are allowed to give is $1,000 during the nominating season, and $1,000 for the general election. The fact that Hillary Clinton is accepting checks for $2,000 clearly reflects her expectation that she will be in the race and running hard in the fall of 2000.

Indeed, she quietly filed a statement of candidacy earlier this week with the Federal Election Commission, dropping a letter in the mail before departing for a European trip, aides said. The first lady's most likely Republican opponent, New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, has been accepting $2,000 checks for some time.

Campaign spokesman Howard Wolfson said the first lady still has not definitely decided she will make the race, but acknowledged, "We're moving forward."

A poll released yesterday by Marist College's Institute for Public Opinion found the mayor favored by 46 percent of the state's voters while 42 percent backed Clinton, basically a tie. A Marist poll last month had Giuliani leading 49 percent to 40 percent. Pollster Lee Miringoff said the mayor was hurt by his battle with the Brooklyn Museum of Art.

Staff writer John F. Harris contributed to this report.