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Clintons' Trip Is Hard Work, Some Play

Politics: President and the first lady campaign through upstate N.Y., visiting a state fair and collecting $150,000 for her Senate campaign.

September 03, 2000|From Reuters

GEDDES, N.Y. — President Clinton and his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, turned a family vacation into a full-fledged campaign swing for the first lady's Senate race Saturday, indulging in old-fashioned politicking by wading through crowds and munching sausage sandwiches at a rural state fair.

On the second day of a two-day trip that was officially billed as a vacation, the Clintons also collected $150,000 for the first lady's campaign coffers at fund-raisers sponsored by supporters in western New York, an area where she trails her rival, Republican Rep. Rick Lazio, in public opinion polls.

Asked if her trip was really a vacation, the first lady made a slightly sardonic face and replied: "Sort of."

The highlight was a visit to the state fair near Syracuse, where the first couple paid a visit to a food stand for sausage and onion sandwiches.

Hundreds of fair-goers crowded around under humid, overcast skies.

Having donned a large black bandanna as a bib over her peach-colored pants suit to eat the sloppy sandwich, the first lady, who is rarely seen eating in public, bit into her meal and declared it "great."

Her husband, also wearing a bandanna bib, played supportive campaign spouse by helpfully wiping a smudge of ketchup from his wife's upper lip.

While the sausage may well have been merely the couple's lunchtime fare, it also served as a bit of a jab at Clinton's opponent who, when he visited the fair last week, did not have one.

Lazio's passing on what has become a tradition in state politics earned him considerable attention in the local media.

Looking happy as he worked the crowds, the president sported a red, white and blue button that read "Proud to be a Hillary volunteer."

He gave the pin to 14-year-old Paul Diamond of Utica, leaving his little brother, 11-year-old Jake, to explain that he too had asked the president for a pin.

"He said he didn't have no more," the little boy said, pleased nonetheless to have a chat with the president.

The crowd was by and large friendly, with only one small "Lazio" sign in evidence.

"I don't even know the name Lazio," said Betty Starusnak, covered with pro-Hillary political buttons as she posed for pictures with the Clintons.

The Clintons attended a late-afternoon fund-raiser at a private home in nearby Cazenovia, where campaign officials said they raised $40,000.

On Friday night, they attended another fund-raiser that netted $110,000, officials said.

The first family had originally planned to spend three days in western New York, staying at the lakefront home of a supporter in the small resort town of Skaneateles, but they trimmed the trip back to two days because daughter Chelsea was sick and had stayed in Washington.

White House spokesman Joe Lockhart said Chelsea had a head cold and was exhausted after accompanying her father on two overseas trips, to Africa and South America.

The grueling trips also took their toll on Clinton's golf game, the president said.

The president got up early to play golf at the Skaneateles Country Club with key Democratic fund-raiser Terry McAuliffe, local supporter John Kinney and golf pro Tom Scherrer.

"I wasn't playing well," Clinton said. "I don't play well when I'm tired any more."

Skaneateles was decked out for the Clintons' visit, with red, white and blue bunting adorning shop windows.

"It's wonderful that he can be here to support Hillary ,because she has my vote," said Elizabeth Casselma.

Outside the fund-raiser, a group of Lazio supporters, one wearing a Hillary mask, waved pro-Lazio signs as the Clintons' motorcade went by.

Across the street, a large sign read, "It Takes a Village to Say No to Hillary," a play on the title of her book, "It Takes a Village."

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