Bill Clinton spent his 56th birthday on Martha's Vineyard and the celebration was like a presidential homecoming for the old geezer. Old time loyalists such as Vernon Jordan mixed with celebrities like Carly Simon at a small gathering of friends. Locals were abuzz that Chelsea Clinton was on the island with a boy in tow, but no word on Sen. Hillary. "We were told she was there," says a Clinton Hill staffer.
Clinton is said to have enjoyed the hamburgers and ribs he was served several times over. And who could blame Hillary if she wasn't there; she's been on the road, doing her best imitation of her husband in his fundraising glory days. DNC estimates place her as the Democrats' third-most prolific fundraiser after DNC chairman Terry McAuliffe and her husband. "On her own, she's probably raised several million dollars for her own political action committees and her campaign," says a DNC fundraiser. "But then add in the $10 million or so she's helped other candidates raise just by showing up at their events."
But for all of the dough she's helping rake in, it isn't as if she can bask in the spotlight. According to the DNC staffer, many Democratic candidates love to have her at events as a draw to tried and true lefty Democrats. But they are loath to promote her presence in the local press for fear of alienating moderate or swing voters. "She's still a lightning rod. Her popularity is growing, but not fast enough that she can be pictured with a moderate Democratic candidate in a local newspaper."
GRAY SKIES FROM NOW ON
Insiders in Gov. Gray Davis's campaign say that they are hoping they won't have to spend the full $30 million war chest he's accrued over the past two years, in part because he'd like to have a little left over in case an even higher office beckons.
"He has said that he has no interest in running for president," says a Davis staffer in Sacramento. "But you can't be a governor of California who's re-elected and not be thinking in the back of your head that you could go a bit higher. Davis is the kind of guy who's always setting his sights on new goals."
Actually, Davis hasn't categorically denied that he'd seek higher office, but given his low approval ratings in the state, it's inconceivable that he could break a perceived pact with California voters and successfully run. "It isn't the California voters he'd have to worry about at first, " says the staffer. "It's Iowa and New Hampshire that he'd have to worry about, and there are so many candidates right now who have those states staked out that it would be nearly impossible for him to pull it off. More likely, he'd try to get out there and campaign for the party and put himself in a position for a vice presidential bid."
Anyone who watched Davis at the 2000 Democratic convention in Los Angeles could see that Davis was trying real hard to look energetic. The normally bland Davis was practically three-dimensional when he took the dais at Staples Center. "He's made his desire for national office known to many in the Democratic Party," says the Davis aide. "His time just hasn't come yet."