Thousands turn out for Clinton rally in Pittsburgh
Thousands of zealous Hillary Clinton supporters packed a small gymnasium at Carnegie Mellon University on Wednesday to hear the Democratic presidential front-runner explain why she belongs in the White House.
Thousands more couldn't get inside.
The Secret Service stopped allowing people inside when the crowd hit 2,000. The overflow crowd gathered in a grassy area outside the gymnasium, where Clinton's campaign set up speakers so the former secretary of State could be heard.
“I want to apologize to all of you for not being able to accommodate you,” Clinton said in an impromptu speech to the boisterous overflow crowd before the rally began inside.
There, Clinton delivered a wide-ranging speech that lasted nearly an hour. She promised to improve the lives of all Americans, keep the nation safe and unify a divided country. She called for the creation of a national infrastructure bank to help pay for improvements to the crumbling transportation system. That work would lead to good jobs, she said.
She said women deserve equal pay for equal work.
“This is not a woman issue. This is a family issue,” Clinton said, drawing a roar from the crowd.
Clinton mentioned her Pennsylvania roots — her grandfather lived in Scranton, and her father earned a degree from Penn State. Clinton grew up in suburban Chicago.
She didn't once mention her Democratic opponent, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who has defeated her in six of the past seven contests. Despite Clinton's recent skid, she maintains a sizable lead with 1,748 delegates and superdelegates to Sanders' 1,058, according to The Associated Press.
It is mathematically impossible for Clinton to secure the 2,383 delegates needed to clinch the Democratic nomination before Pennsylvania's April 26 primary, in which 210 delegates are at stake.
Clinton mentioned Republican front-runner Donald Trump more than Sanders.
“Trump's rhetoric is deeply disturbing and intended to divide us and incite violence,” she said, promising to work with Republicans to get things done.
Before the speech, Clinton toured Carnegie Mellon's Robotics Institute.
After Carnegie Mellon professor Howie Choset showed Clinton how researchers program a snake-like robot for search-and-rescue missions, the former secretary of State gave Choset a high-five.
“I am just so blown away about what you all are doing here,” Clinton said.
Supporters began lining up outside the gymnasium more than five hours before the rally. By midafternoon, thousands of people lined Margaret Morrison, Tech and Frew streets, which surround Skibo Gymnasium.
Charlotte Somerville, 86, of Center Township in Beaver County was among the early arrivals.
“I am supporting (Clinton) because she is so damn smart. The problem with her rivals is that they are just jealous of her abilities,” Somerville said as she sat in a wheelchair outside the gymnasium, wearing a “Clinton” rhinestone pin that she got when she attended President Bill Clinton's first inauguration in 1992.
Democrats have carried Pennsylvania in every presidential election since then.
U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Scranton, who supports Clinton, backed Barack Obama in Pennsylvania's hotly contested primary in 2008. He said that Clinton “brings a degree of preparation for the job on both domestic policy and national security that likely no one ever has had running for the presidency.”
Paul Sracic, a political science professor at Youngstown State University, said Clinton needs to dispatch Sanders quickly.
“A pitched battle that goes on for another month or longer or, worst-case scenario, forces her to rely on superdelegates for her convention majority could poison her with Sanders' young supporters,” Sracic said.
Sanders supporter Kate Malmstrom, 18, of Squirrel Hill said she isn't writing off Clinton yet.
“All of my friends are for Bernie, and it is kind of unpopular to attend this event,” Malmstrom said as she walked into the Clinton rally. “Still, I plan on keeping an open mind and might switch my vote.”
Salena Zito and Tom Fontaine are Tribune-Review staff writers.