Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton held a job interview in front of a crowd of 3,000 in Market Square today, asking them to hire her "for the toughest job in the world" as a sometimes raucous Pennsylvania primary campaign neared its close.
"I want you to think of this as a hiring decision," Mrs. Clinton told an audience that waited through a combination of clouds, sunshine and then overcast skies that rolled across the horizon for the one hour she was running behind.
With polls placing the New York senator and former first lady with a five to seven point lead over rival Sen. Barack Obama, Mrs. Clinton brought out her major weapons in the battle for Pennsylvania's west: County Executive Dan Onorato was on the podium, as was Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, Lt. Gov. Catherine Baker Knoll and former president and aspiring First Man, Bill Clinton.
In a region of the state where the Clinton administration was overwhelmingly popular and the ex-president remains a guaranteed draw, Mrs. Clinton alluded to that political heyday.
"Sometimes during this campaign, people criticize the 1990s," Mrs. Clinton said. "I've always wondered: what is it they didn't like -- the peace or the prosperity? And how do we get back to those days?"
She said the nation can get back to those days by electing her and she promised an agenda of job creation, trade protection and changes in the tax code.
"We're going to make sure the tax code is fair again," she said. "I don't think it's right that a Wall Street money manager making $50 million a year pays a lower percentage of his income in taxes than a teacher or a nurse or a truck driver or a worker right here in Pittsburgh making less than $50,000 a year."
She promised tighter trade regulations against foreign imports.
"Let's make sure the countries we trade with follow the rules. Let's make sure we enforce stronger rules," Mrs. Clinton said to cheers.
At one juncture, Mrs. Clinton suggested she could create as many as 5 million jobs by steering government research subsidies from "old energy" industries to "clean, renewable sources of electricity."
"We're going to have to say, no, we don't want to be dependent either on foreign oil or on fossil fuels for the next 100 years," she said. "If we do this right, we can create at least 5 million new clean energy jobs over the next 10 years."
As the Clinton campaign made its final push across Pennsylvania in anticipation of tomorrow's vote, her chief strategists attempted to sculpt a guarantee that even a narrow Clinton win would constitute a blow to Mr. Obama.
In a state where Mrs. Clinton once led in the polls by double digits, the Obama campaign has suggested that a single-digit win by Mrs. Clinton would amount to a de facto repudiation of Mrs. Clinton in a state tailor made to her blue-collar message.
Yesterday, Howard Wolfson, Mrs. Clinton's communications director, and Geoff Garin, her chief strategist, flatly declared that Mr. Obama must win the Pennsylvania primary outright or acknowledge a serious setback in a state where he has outspent Mrs. Clinton by 3-to-1.
"Sen. Obama made a conscious decision to try to change the stakes here," said Mr. Garin. "I think they've really changed the arithmetic here by spending as much as they have, throwing as much mud as they have, jeopardizing their brand in the way they did."
With 158 delegates at stake, Pennsylvania remains a do-or-die state for Mrs. Clinton, who trails Mr. Obama in the nationwide delegate count.
Neither candidate is yet close to the delegate number needed to win the nomination when the party gathers in Denver in late August.
After tomorrow's vote, major primaries get under way in Indiana and North Carolina, with both sides working hard behind the scenes to reel in the uncommitted "Super Delegates" -- party leaders and elected officials who have been given votes but are obligated to neither candidate.
More details in tomorrow's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.