At first, the media — hungry for a story about the candidate who's dominating the weekend news cycle — made up much of the attendance. As minutes passed, a diverse crowd of about 100, skewing young and female, crowded behind the cameras or sat out of view at the nearby bar to hear the speakers, mostly elected officials, praise the non-present non-candidate.
"Who are we here for today," yelled Rep. Carolyn Maloney. "Hillary!" the crowd yelled back. "Who's going to be the first woman president?" "Hillary!" (Unlike the rest of the audience, Anthony DiSimone insisted on yelling the candidate's first and last names. "I'm being in-your-face," he said.)
"I have been ready for Hillary since I first met her in 1992," Maloney continued. "I was ready for Hillary when she ran for the Senate in New York state. I was ready for Hillary when she ran for president. I was ready for Hillary when she was appointed to be the secretary of state. But I have never been as ready for Hillary as I am today!" Maloney couldn't help but note that the day's events would soon be overshadowed. "Today is an important day," she said. "But tomorrow we are making history!"
The event was less a coda to the Ready For Hillary movement than a re-articulation of the point the organization was always trying to make: People, particularly women, can't wait for Clinton to run for president. Maloney and other speakers pointed to the "grass-roots support" of 4 million volunteers who'd signed up with the organization.
Several of those volunteers were in the room. Manjari Velluri attended the rally with her 7-year old twins. She'd signed up with Ready For Hillary two years ago. "I'm a woman," she said, "I'm a single mother, I'm a working mother. And a lot needs to be done to empower women." Athena Murray, a young African American woman, shared that sentiment. "I've been excited about how women are going so far," she said. "Barack Obama broke a barrier. Hillary Clinton can break another one."
State Assemblyman Michael Blake, representing the South Bronx, worked with the Obama campaign in the early days of 2008. Blake saw parallels with the two races. "Hardly ever can you say you're the first at anything," he said. "You have that energy building every day as the election gets closer." He pointed out that Clinton also has another advantage that neither she nor Obama had in 2008: A united Democratic base. "Look at all of us coming together," he said. "We're merging OFA [the campaigns of Obama in 2008 and 2012] with the Clinton world. We're different worlds, pursuing the same dream."
Liam Copeland and Tyler Baron heard about the event Friday night and decided to attend. Both supported Clinton eight years ago. Baron summarized his support for her now: "I think she's just a badass." Copeland agreed, expanding on the appeal he saw. "She's a woman, she's a Democrat, she likes the gays," he said. Copeland and Baron, like others who spoke with The Post, seemed hopeful that Clinton herself might attend the event. Probably in part for legal reasons, she didn't.
The bartender hustling to serve the crowd wore a "Ready For Hillary" sticker; so did at least one member of the kitchen staff who made his way through the room. About an hour into the event, organizers seemed to have run out of them, offering bumper stickers instead.
Maloney said that they'd sold 200 tickets to the event prior to reports that Clinton planned to announce; after, they sold 400 more. She also said that Ready For Hillary staff had "turned off their phones, their e-mail's off," suggesting that the operation had all but wound down. "Our goal was to encourage her to run," Maloney said, "so we're ecstatic today. She's going to run!" And what's more: "She'll hit the ground running. She won't need lessons on how to be president."
Maloney was pulled away to talk to another member of the media, but closed with enthusiasm. "We are making history," she said. "We are making history!"