US Election On her campaign’s last day, Hillary Clinton feels the love

Stepping out of her van at the airport in White Plains, New York, at 9:59 a.m., Clinton waved her iPhone at the swarm of journalists and her “Stronger Together” campaign plane, all awaiting her arrival. “Look at the big plane and the big press!” she said to the 2-year-old on the other end of her FaceTime conversation, her granddaughter, Charlotte.

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play On her campaign’s last day, Hillary Clinton feel the love
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RALEIGH, N.C. — The shouts took Hillary Clinton by surprise.

“I love you!” a gaggle of young girls yelled in unison as she spoke at an outdoor rally in Pittsburgh, the first stop of the last swing of her 2016 campaign.

It is not that voters had not occasionally professed their love for Clinton during her 575 days on the campaign trail. They had. But on Monday — the final day of the long slog — Clinton looked as if she finally believed them.

Then, she did something she rarely does. She paused. She cocked her head to the right to look at the girls. And, abandoning the safety of her Teleprompter, she said, “I love you all, too.”

For months, Clinton has told voters that what she really believes the country needs — in addition to debt-free college and a $275 billion infrastructure plan — is more “love and kindness.”

Until Monday night, that declaration felt incongruent whenever she said it. After all, those ingredients in particular had been in short supply this election season. Clinton had spent most of her energy on the trail unleashing on Donald Trump: He was “unfit” and “dangerous,” a “loose cannon” and a “puppet.”

Hillary Clinton speaks during a campaign event at the University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania, Nov. 7, 2016. (Doug Mills/The New York Times) play

Hillary Clinton speaks during a campaign event at the University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania, Nov. 7, 2016. (Doug Mills/The New York Times)

 

But Clinton’s last day of campaigning, a 21-hour stretch of five events across five cities and four states, started — and ended — with the closest thing to love she has experienced yet in this race. And she basked in it.

Stepping out of her van at the airport in White Plains, New York, at 9:59 a.m., Clinton waved her iPhone at the swarm of journalists and her “Stronger Together” campaign plane, all awaiting her arrival. “Look at the big plane and the big press!” she said to the 2-year-old on the other end of her FaceTime conversation, her granddaughter, Charlotte.

After the Pittsburgh rally, Clinton had a spring in her step, as she made her Secret Service agents wince by walking across the road — her bright red pantsuit popping from within the scrum — to pose for selfies with supporters who lined the street outside the event.

Then, at a stop in Michigan, a state Clinton lost to Bernie Sanders during the primary season, she said it again.

“I know it is unusual, I admit, for somebody running for president, especially the day before an election, but I’ve been saying this for months,” Clinton said in Grand Rapids. “We need more of two things right now: We need more love and kindness in America.”

Hillary Clinton speaks during a campaign event at the University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania, Nov. 7, 2016. (Doug Mills/The New York Times) play

Hillary Clinton speaks during a campaign event at the University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania, Nov. 7, 2016. (Doug Mills/The New York Times)

 

The crowd liked it, but not as much as they did when she asked them to shout out the interest rate on their college loans. “12.7 percent? 14.1 percent? I gotta tell you, that is outrageous,” she said, appearing thrilled that a policy call-and-response had received such 

a roar of applause from Michiganders.

Clinton ended the rally, as she usually had, by declaring, “Love trumps hate!”

Aides and friends who talked to Clinton on Monday described her as happy and “at peace.” There were still nerves about how it would all turn out on Tuesday, they said, but she had done all she could do.

As Clinton boarded her plane in Grand Rapids for an evening rally in Philadelphia with her husband, her daughter and the Obamas, she stopped at the top of the steps and turned to wave at no one in particular, something that presidents often do but Clinton does not.

In Philadelphia, Bruce Springsteen sang her praises, presenting his song “Long Walk Home” as “a prayer for post-election.” In his raspy New Jersey way, he declared that on Tuesday, Clinton’s opponent’s “ideas and that campaign are going down.”

When Clinton finally came out to address the biggest crowd of her campaign — 33,000 people packed in front of Independence Hall under the bright glow of a half moon — Obama gave his former rival a long hug and helped position her stool just right. “I want this to be perfect for you,” he said.

She lamented how devoid of love the campaign had been. “I regret deeply how angry the tone of the campaign became,” she told the crowd stretched across the square. A supporter shouted, as if on cue, “That’s not your fault!”

By the time Clinton reboarded the “Stronger Together” plane after 10 p.m., she was surrounded by loved ones. Her husband and daughter were on board, as was the family friend who declared “You Give Love a Bad Name,” Jon Bon Jovi. Bon Jovi, a silhouette in black, waved to reporters.

Hillary Clinton during a campaign event at Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Mich., Nov. 7, 2016. (Doug Mills/The New York Times) play

Hillary Clinton during a campaign event at Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Mich., Nov. 7, 2016. (Doug Mills/The New York Times)

 

Clinton’s longtime aide Huma Abedin, who had stepped off the campaign trail after emails on her estranged husband’s laptop drew the attention of the FBI, had rejoined the Democratic nominee. Other members of “Hillaryland,” the tight-knit group of female aides who worked with Clinton in the White House, also accompanied her, including Maggie Williams and Capricia Marshall.

Asked whether he was proud of his wife, former President Bill Clinton beamed. He gave a thumbs-up and hoisted his other arm around Hillary Clinton, smothering her in his embrace.

She had been in this position more than once — a political spouse whose partner was concluding the most grueling campaign imaginable. But on Monday night, and into early Tuesday morning, it was Hillary Clinton who was one election from potentially winning the White House.

Upon arrival in Raleigh, North Carolina, just before midnight, Hillary Clinton, her family and Bon Jovi exited the plane and climbed into a motorcade en route to Clinton’s last rally of the campaign.

As the entourage entered the Reynolds Coliseum at North Carolina State University, a pop star clad in black sat at a piano onstage. “I want your love,” Lady Gaga sang. Later, she and Bon Jovi did a duet rendition of “Livin’ on a Prayer.”

The crowd chanted, “I believe that she will win! I believe that she will win!” Clinton said the rally was “worth staying up for.”

She exuded cheery contentment, and could not resist a play on Bon Jovi’s ballad. “Until now and the polls close tomorrow we are gonna be livin’ on a prayer,” Clinton told the rowdy late-night crowd.

But there was more love and kindness to be showered on Clinton. Upon arrival back on the tarmac at White Plains, she was greeted by staff members, supporters and other well-wishers who had shown up for a soiree before dawn.

In a couple of hours, a sleep-deprived, adrenaline-fueled Clinton, whose mother was born on the day Congress approved women’s right to vote, would go to the polls in Chappaqua, New York, to vote for herself to become the first female president.

It was Election Day, a date Clinton had — depending on who you ask – been working toward for eight years, or for her entire life.



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