The Clintons at the Palestra

Larry Eichel reports:

11:14 p.m.

I hope she finishes soon. I'm seated in an overflow press area that has no power. And my battery is running low. It sounds like she's winding up. She asks for the vote. And as ever, she closes by asking her listeners to think of this as a hiring decision "with the longest job interview anyone could imagine." Hugs and kisses, all around. Some "Rocky" music. And good night. 

11:08 p.m.

We're onto health care now. A few people are leaving, which actually is not all that unusual in an event like this. A lot of people have been here for nearly three hours. It's hot. The seats are uncomfortable. And they've seen all the celebrities. And it's late.

This is her standard stump speech, which hasn't varied all that much the whole time she's been campaigning in Pennsylvania. Talking about education, about making college affordable, about public safety, about the economy, about the war in Iraq. And she thanks one of the few newspapers in the state to endorse her, the college paper, The Daily Pennsylvanian. And a little slap at Obama: "It's now enough to say. `Yes, we can,' we have to say how we can."

11:00 p.m. 

She says if anyone believes that a president doesn't make a difference, the last seven years have proved otherwise. And she does a little pandering to the crowd, referring to the role that needs to be played in the energy-technology revolution by
"great universities like this one."

10:51 p.m.

Actually, Hillary has arrived, A big hug for Bill. And away she goes. She thanks everybody for everything.

"This has been an extraordinary campaign, and it has been for all the right reasons." She says this election has brought out passionate feelings, and that's good. There certainly are passionate feelings in this hall. 

10:41 p.m.

He says that he was a little taken aback when he first heard about Chelsea's comment that Hillary would be a better president than he was. But then he thought about it, he said, and decided Chelsea was right. "I agree with my daughter." Tomorrow, he says, the next stage of Hillary's campaign for the presidency can be born, right here in Pennsylvania.

A Clinton law of politics: "If somebody tells you you ought to quit, they're afraid you won't." Another one: "If somebody tells you you can't win, they're afraid that you can."

Still no traveling press corps. Which means no Hillary. 

10:33 p.m.

Bill tells us that he saw it all coming. He says he told Hillary over a year ago that the conventional wisdom -- that you can't lose the nomination and can't win the general -- was all wrong. He says he knew all along that getting the nomination would be the tough part and winning the general the easy part. And he still believes that today.

In case you've forgotten, the man is a captivating speaker. As he talks, this loud, raucous crowd is dead quiet, hanging on his every word as leads everyone through a history of just about everything Hillary has done in her life.  

10:26 p.m.

Chelsea yields to Bill. I suspect his speech will be a little longer. Not just because he's Bill Clinton. But because Hillary isn't here yet. He praises all of her endorsers, including Nutter and Rendell. He says he has visited 47 Pennsylvania communities on her behalf, and he praises the state. He warns the audience that he is about to "commit candor...My job is to talk until Hillary gets here. But relax, it won't be too long. Her plane has landed." 

10:20 p.m. 

And now...Chelsea Clinton. She confirms her previous statement that she believes that her mother would be a better president than her father. Why? Because she's "more progressive" and "more prepared." "But I am very proud of my father as well." Glad she clarified that.  

10:15 p.m. 

Now it's Rendell's turn. He begins by pointing to where he seats for Penn basketball games. It's really hot in here, and Rendell just said that he's ready to raise money to air condition this place. A fine idea.

Ed says everyone has counted out Hillary three times before. And been wrong. And will be wrong again tomorrow. "We all better get used to saying two words," he sayd, "Madame President."   

10:10 p.m.

The traveling press isn't here. So that means Hillary isn't either. But Ed Rendell and Michael Nutter are. And Chelsea and Bill. All on stage. Nutter is acting as the emcee, and he is having a wonderful time. Back to his days as Mixmaster Mike, a disco DJ. Says he always wanted to play the Palestra and this is as close as he'll ever get. You'll be shocked to know that Nutter thinks tomorrow is going to be a great day.

10:00 p.m.

So much for the warmup acts. Now, it's the Penn pep band while we wait for the stars to arrive. On the Palestra scoreboards, the words "Hillary for" and "President" are where the names of the teams would be. And the game clock is set at 20:08. Knew you were dying to know. 

We're at the Palestra on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania for the big Clinton finale, which is to feature Hillary, Bill and Chelsea. They aren't here yet, but there will be a full house to greet them. For basketball, the Palestra seats about 8,000. A few areas are blocked off, and there are some seats on the floor. So maybe it can hold 6,500 tonight. And it's filled up. And not everybody got in.

Right now, the warmup acts are on. First was Rep. Allyson Schwartz of Montgomery County, who told the crowd that they need to work hard for Hillary because the margin of victory matters. And of course it does. If Clinton just squeaks through in Pennsylvania, her candidacy will be in no better shape than it has been. Which isn't all that good.

Next came Rep. Joe Sestak of Delaware County. And now it's Rep. Stephanie Tubb Jones of Ohio, who's getting people worked up.