The race between Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and her predecessor, Condoleezza Rice, to be the most-traveled secretary ever is trending strongly Rice’s way.

As we noted in February 2011, Clinton, after two years in office, just eked ahead of Rice with a late flurry of January jaunts — including a six-day 16,500-miler to the Middle East and a spectacular, last-minute one-day trip, on Jan. 30, 2011, to Haiti.

(The yearly count, compiled by our colleague Glenn Kessler, ends on Jan. 31 because a new administration’s Cabinet members aren’t confirmed until late January.)

So the two-year standings put Clinton in the lead, but just. She had 165 days on the road and 40 trips; Rice had 163 days on the road and 39 trips.

But at the three-year mark, though each had logged 60 trips abroad, Rice had moved ahead in terms of days on the road, with 236 days to Clinton’s 229.

And though it seems lately that every time we turn around Clinton is flying off to somewhere, Rice built a formidable lead early in her fourth year in office. Clinton, however, is starting to lag.

The standings as of mid-April: Rice had 264 days on the road and 68 trips; Clinton had 239 days on the road and 65 trips.

Rice, however, looking for deals on Mideast peace, Iran’s nuclear enrichment efforts and North Korea’s nukes before George W. Bush’s presidency ended, set a blistering pace down the stretch. By the end of her tenure, she had logged 326 days on the road and 86 trips.

At Clinton’s current pace, Kessler predicts, she might end up in third place — though she could possibly catch Henry Kissinger, the current No. 2, who logged 313 days on the road.

By another metric — total miles traveled — Clinton is at 745,139 miles. Rice ended up with a staggering 1,059,247 miles, a number that on a commercial airline would qualify a traveler for platinum-plated benefits.

While Rice didn’t get any of those diplomatic deals she sought, she may have set an enduring record for official travel.

As for Clinton, running for president in 2016 might be an easier and less stressful challenge than overtaking Rice.

Legroom for Cantor

Speaking of airplanes, two easily recognizable House members found themselves on a Delta flight Monday from Atlanta to Washington: House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and civil rights icon John Lewis (D-Ga.).

Lewis, as he most always does, settled into a seat in coach class for the relatively short flight — an hour and 45 minutes — up from his district to Washington. Cantor, however, was sitting up front in business class.

We wondered about the trip and that minor indulgence and e-mailed Cantor’s office Wednesday afternoon but got no reply. They’ve been a tad busy these days with his small-business tax cut bill working its way to passage on the House floor.

We’ll let you know soon as we find out.

Some bills at the beach

Rep. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) has repaid the American Enterprise Institute for the meals of a friend he brought with him to a conference the think tank held in Sea Island, Ga.

The Loop reported last month on a potentially awkward-sounding trip the congressman took to the lovely beach-side resort. He brought his mother (whose meals AEI could pay for under House rules) and a friend who is a manager and buyer for a Charleston, S.C., lingerie shop (whose meals the think tank isn’t supposed to provide).

According to LegiStorm, Scott filed an amended form indicating he repaid $371 for the meals of his pal Zee Patel, who works for Bits of Lace, an upscale boutique.

We wonder how many fancy negligees that would buy.

Delightfully undiplomatic

The swearing-in of an ambassador is typically a somewhat dry affair. Not so with the ceremony on Wednesday to formally install Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley as the United States’ woman in Malta.

We hear the ornate Benjamin Franklin Room on the State Department’s eighth floor was, and we quote an attendee, “rocking.” The event featured unusual entertainment: the Washington Performing Arts Society’s Men and Women of the Gospel choir sang traditional gospel tunes that had even a few of the most buttoned-up guests tapping their toes.

Abercrombie-Winstanley, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, is a member of the choir — though we imagine she won’t be performing with them too often anymore, given the grueling commute. Her predecessor, Douglas Kmiec , drew controversy in the posting — an inspector general’s report faulted him for spending too much time on faith-based activities.

Moving on

White House staff secretary Raj De, the low-key senior staffer who reviews every single piece of paper before it goes to President Obama, is moving on to become general counsel for the National Security Agency.

De had been a lawyer on the Senate Homeland Security Committee, a key staffer on the 9/11 Commission and principal deputy assistant attorney general for legal policy at Justice before moving to the White House in 2010, first as deputy staff secretary and then into his current job early last year. That’s a lot of security clearances.

His replacement will be Douglas Kramer, a lawyer who’s now in the White House counsel’s office and before that worked in the Justice Department’s antitrust division.

Kramer, we’re told, had been a student of Obama’s back when he was teaching at the University of Chicago law school. Must have gotten a pretty good grade.

With Emily Heil

The blog:
intheloop. Twitter:@InTheLoopWP.