One spoke admiringly, saying he was so proud that his wife had finally plunged in to begin a public political life of her own. That was President Clinton, the day after the first lady announced she will run for the Senate from New York and move to the state to campaign.
The other spoke derisively, saying curtly that what Hillary Rodham Clinton does in her campaign to become U.S. senator has no bearing on his own agenda. That would be Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani. He also offered that his strategy (of letting her run against herself) is working quite well.
The two men who will factor most prominently in Hillary Clinton's race for the Senate spoke briefly today--one at the White House and one at New York's City Hall--a day after she ended all speculation and Democratic hand-wringing by announcing that she is definitely in the Senate race and plans to roll up her sleeves and fight, even forgo much of her role as first lady.
That last part raised questions on what it would mean for the presidential marriage. But the president told reporters today in the Rose Garden that he and his wife will adjust. "We'll have to make accommodations," he said, adding that in Washington she will "do some things and some things she might otherwise do, she won't."
Of their new home in Chappaqua, a New York City suburb, he said, "She'll have a place to be when she's up there campaigning, not here in the White House."
"I'll try to do for her what she's always done for me," the president added. "I'm proud of her."
Clinton revealed that he had advised his wife to announce her candidacy now rather than wait until next year, on the theory that "if there's any doubt and you can resolve it, you ought to do it."
By definitively stating she is in the race and that she will make an official announcement early next year, Hillary Clinton indeed dispelled the mounting doubts about her candidacy that threatened to erode her political legitimacy.
But her likely Republican opponent said in brief comments today that he has no plan to match her actions. "When I'm ready" is all Giuliani would say when asked when he, too, would throw his hat in the ring.
Giuliani has persistently refused to be pushed on his announcement. Even when New York Gov. George E. Pataki (R) endorsed the mayor's prospective run for Senate back in August and urged him to announce sooner rather than later, Giuliani stuck to his own time frame, which he has yet to divulge.
After Hillary Clinton's announcement Tuesday, her spokesman, Howard Wolfson, told reporters it was time for Giuliani to "put up or shut up." And today, a crowd of reporters packed the Blue Room at Giuliani's City Hall to nudge some comment out of him.
"Is it yes or is it no?" a reporter asked, echoing the question Hillary Clinton was asked Tuesday by a supporter.
Said Giuliani: "When I'm ready I'll answer it, on my own time and in my own way. And I'm not going to let outside events force me into a decision. I'll do it when I'm ready. So far our strategy is working, so there's no reason to change it."
Previously, Giuliani has described his strategy this way: "the longer she runs against herself, the better we do." That comment came in response to opinion polls during the summer that showed Hillary Clinton's support falling from its initial high and settling in a stagnant spot slightly below Giuliani, where it remains.
CAPTION: New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said of the race: "So far our strategy is working."