09/25/2000 at 01:00 AM EDT
When news broke of Chelsea Clinton's romance with a White House intern, there were many who noted (after the Monica Lewinsky jokes) that life appeared to be imitating The West Wing, in which a fictional First Daughter goes out with a young White House aide.
In fact, real life got the jump on prime time. Friends say Chelsea, 20, and Jeremy Kane, 21, have been sweethearts at Stanford University for over a year—dining out, going to movies and strolling hand in hand through art galleries. (The White House is mum on whether Chelsea's connections helped Kane land the coveted internship.) "They were best friends before they dated," says his pal Anthony Robinson, adding that the couple met as freshmen. Kane, a classics major, has always been interested in politics, Robinson says; "that's why he and Chelsea hit it off."
One of four children of Jeffrey, 47, a Presbyterian minister, and Carol, 46, a tennis coach, the outgoing, charismatic Kane hails from Los Gatos, Calif. He was the quintessential scholar-athlete, finishing fifth in the 1996 U.S. Olympic swimming trials and graduating from Los Gatos High with a 3.75 GPA in '97. He was a top swimmer in his first two years at Stanford—where Chelsea's previous beau, Matthew Pierce, was a teammate. After suffering dizzy spells, Kane left the swim team last year.
Kane, who worked in the speech-writing department at the White House (mostly doing research), accompanied Chelsea to the Democratic convention in L.A. last month as part of the presidential party, sat by her side at the D.C. Millennium Celebration on New Year's Eve and was spotted back in April at church with her and the President in San Francisco. For now, he's heading back to school while Chelsea takes the quarter off to savor Dad's final days in office and help mother Hillary campaign for the Senate. But the romance still might go the distance. After a Giants game last May in San Francisco, the couple dined with Giants COO Larry Baer. "They were like a couple who's been together for years," he notes. "Lots of people paid attention to Chelsea-but Chelsea paid attention to Jeremy."