WASHINGTON – Presidents and presidential candidates who want a little rest and relaxation often find they can't completely separate the vacation from politics. Even the destination can be a campaign calculation.
Dick Morris (search), who advised former President Clinton, famously surveyed where the first family should vacation during his first term. The public liked the idea of the president camping, and Clinton headed to Grand Teton National Park in northwestern Wyoming.
But Democrat John Kerry (search) and his wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry (search), rejected the political option in favor of the peaceful, and on Wednesday will begin a weeklong vacation at their home in the wealthy ski retreat of Ketchum, Idaho.
Kerry, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, considered a warmer destination to recover after tromping through snow in Iowa and New Hampshire and other blustery states as part of the intense primary campaign. He had several options in states that will play a key role in the presidential race in November, such as Florida, New Mexico and Arizona.
Idaho offers Kerry little hope in the general election — it has just five electoral votes and easily went for Bush in 2000 by a more than 2-to-1 margin, 67 percent to 28 percent.
"He wanted to go some place warm and every place we looked at didn't make sense because it's not like he can stay in a hotel," said Kerry spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter.
Staying in a hotel means a flock of reporters would be right on site at all times. Reporters will follow Kerry and his campaign to Idaho, but at least he and Teresa will be able to escape to the confines of their own home. They also have another vacation home in Nantucket, Mass.
Kerry recently teased reporters traveling on his plane that they would get the better deal by going with him to Ketchum than the White House reporters who follow Bush to his ranch in Crawford, Texas.
Bush spends much of his down time at his beloved 1,600-acre ranch near the remote and dusty town. Even if it isn't calculated, his vacation destination doesn't hurt his image as a boots-wearing, plain-talking Texas native, rather than a descendant of wealthy New Englanders who was educated in prep school and the Ivy League.
Republican pollster David Winston said the only political benefit that should be considered in a presidential candidate's vacation is whether the politician gets enough rest.
"These guys really do have horrible, miserable schedules," Winston said. "I don't think they particularly worry about where it is going to be as long as they get the down time they need."
The first President Bush preferred the family compound in Kennebunkport, on the coast of Maine, while President Reagan frequently retreated to his secluded mountain ranch near Santa Barbara, Calif. Media photographers figured how to capture his image with a telephoto lens, and he was criticized for horseback riding while U.S. troops invaded Lebanon.
After Clinton won re-election, he often returned to his favored destination on Martha's Vineyard, off the Massachusetts coast. But he and his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, headed to Finger Lakes region of New York state when she was exploring a run for one of the state's Senate seats, which she won in 2000.
Former Clinton pollster Doug Schoen said even if Florida is more important politically than Idaho, no one will remember eight months from now where Kerry vacationed.
"Ultimately President Clinton decided where he went on vacation and ultimately it really didn't make a big difference, and I'd say the same for John Kerry," Schoen said.