It's Senator Obama's 47th birthday today, but Mayor Bloomberg is seeing to it that Senator Clinton will get a party of her own.
The independent mayor, who did not endorse a candidate during the presidential primary and has avoided taking sides in the general election, is throwing a welcome home party for Mrs. Clinton at Gracie Mansion tonight. Rep. Charles Rangel, the speaker of the City Council, Christine Quinn, and the city comptroller, William Thompson Jr., are among the expected guests.
While the party will recognize Mrs. Clinton's work on the campaign trail, some on the guest list say that in addition to marking her return to New York political life, the party will serve as an opportunity for city and state officials to solicit her help as lawmakers at City Hall and in Albany grapple with an economic downturn and projected budget gaps of billions of dollars over the next few years.
"When you look at the tremendous needs, whether it is infrastructure needs, the MTA and the crisis it may be in, and you look at all of the upcoming crises that are happening, we need her," Rep. Gregory Meeks, a Democrat of Queens who supported Mrs. Clinton during the primary and is attending tonight's party, said. "We need her ability to be able to be effective in delivering what we need for our state."
Mr. Meeks said of Mrs. Clinton's return to New York: "Now we've got all of our firepower back."
Mr. Bloomberg is paying for the party, which is not a fund-raiser. Since ending her bid for president, Mrs. Clinton has been trying to raise money to pay off her considerable campaign debt, which topped more than $20 million.
A political consultant who worked on President Clinton's re-election team, Henry Sheinkopf, said the party is also a way to keep Mr. Bloomberg politically relevant as he heads deeper into the second half of his final term at City Hall and to solidify his relationship with the junior senator as the city faces a grim economy.
Others, however, aren't interpreting the bash as anything other than how it was billed, as an opportunity to recognize Mrs. Clinton's historic presidential campaign and her work for New York. Ms. Quinn, a likely candidate for mayor who supported Mrs. Clinton during the primary, said in a statement that it's appropriate for everyone in New York to "take some time to welcome Senator Clinton home."
A former top aide to Mr. Bloomberg, William Cunningham, said that although the party may look "a little unusual," the mayor has held receptions for state senators and members of the Assembly, as well as for the state's congressional delegation. When Mayor Koch turned 80, Mr. Bloomberg threw him a birthday party at Gracie Mansion, and he did the same for Mayor Dinkins upon his 80th birthday.
"It's not unheard of for him to do social events for other elected officials," Mr. Cunningham said. "The fact that it's Hillary, and after she ran for president, made it stand out a bit."