Welcome To Clinton Country

Poor Arkansas. Physically gorgeous, it has long been regarded as culturally backward. Locals have joked that the state motto should be "Thank God for Mississippi," the neighbor that keeps Arkansas from ranking 50th on just about every socio-economic index. But the hordes now swarming into Little Rock to learn more about their new President will be pleasantly surprised.

The state that gave birth to the Oxford-trained President-elect takes pride in its reputation for grittiness: The state animal is a feral hog known as a razorback. In the best American tradition, Arkansans see their chance and are taking it. The place called Hope--the Piney Woods hamlet where Clinton was born--may convert its train depot into a visitors' center. And Hot Springs, where Clinton grew up, has printed a brochure with a map of Clinton hangouts. Both sites are within two hours' drive southwest of Little Rock.

POWER BAR. Little Rock itself holds plenty of clues to the Clinton mystique. The State Capitol and 40-story headquarters of the tcby yogurt empire dominate the skyline. There's the Governor's mansion (1800 Center St.), longtime home of Socks the Cat. At the opposite end of Center Street, on West Markham, is the Old State House, the original 1836 Arkansas Capitol that now is a museum of state history. Next door on Markham Street is the ornate 115-year-old Capital Hotel. The restaurant and bar, a gathering place of Little Rock's lawyers and lobbyists, is not to be missed. Across the street is the Excelsior Hotel, in whose bar Gennifer Flowers claimed to have met Clinton on several occasions.

Don't miss Central High (14th and Park), from which Governor Orval E. Faubus tried to bar black students in 1957. Nearby is Villa Marre (1321 S. Scott St.), the Victorian house whose exterior Clinton pal and Hollywood producer Linda Bloodworth-Thomason uses in the TV sitcom Designing Women.

Food isn't Little Rock's strong suit. But try Doe's Eat Place (1023 Markham St.) for huge, juicy steaks--$24 and up. They're proof that for all its lack of sophistication, Arkansas is more than Dogpatch, USA.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.