RIVERHEAD, N.Y. — It looked like a traditional event for a rural politician: A member of Congress, standing before a sweltering summer crowd, had come to toast a local Farm Bureau official.
But the star here last week was Hillary Rodham Clinton, better known as a national liberal symbol than a hero to the traditionally Republican farming community.
In a sparsely populated part of Long Island, amid vineyards and a zinnia patch, the Democratic senator from New York boasted of raising the visibility of the state's agricultural sector among her Washington colleagues.
"They didn't know we grew anything in New York except tall buildings," she quipped.
It was far from the world of national politics usually associated with Clinton. Even while speculation grows that she will run for president in 2008, Clinton spends much of her time on the more pedestrian work of representing New York: appearing at food banks, meetings on traffic congestion and — as she did last week — a Farm Bureau reception.
But her twin worlds of local and national politics have something in common. In New York, where she is running for reelection in 2006, and in the Senate, where she is shaping her national persona, Clinton is moving to shed the partisan image she acquired as first lady.
She has taken up causes such as economic development and military overhaul that are nonpartisan or more centrist than her work in championing a national healthcare plan while her husband was president. She is teaming with local Republican officials and with some of the Senate's most conservative members.