UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Shivering in blankets of Penn State's colors, about 20,000 people filled a campus lawn yesterday to hear Barack Obama say he can win the Democratic nomination even if rival Hillary Clinton stays in the race.
Supporters stood in long lines for hours to hear Obama ahead of the April 22 Pennsylvania primary.
On a sunny day with temperatures in the low 40s, most bundled up for the type of large-scale rally that has become the candidate's trademark.
"It's been a while, and it's a little cold, but we really like Barack. He's inspiring," said 19-year-old Caitlin McDonnell, wrapped in a blue Nittany Lions blanket.
Pennsylvania's primary is the next contest in the Obama-Clinton fight for the Democratic presidential nomination. The Keystone State, which will allocate 158 delegates, is the biggest delegate prize remaining in the Democratic primaries. Nine more primaries follow, ending June 3.
Some Democrats, particularly Obama's supporters, have voiced concern that the hard-fought, drawn-out race is hurting the party's chances to win in November.
"My attitude is Senator Clinton can run as long as she wants," the Illinois senator said over the weekend.
"I want everybody to understand that this has been a great contest, great for America," Obama told the crowd at Penn State yesterday. "It's engaged and involved people like never before. I think it's terrific that Senator Clinton's supporters have been as passionate as my supporters have been because that makes the people invested and engaged in this process, and I am absolutely confident that when this primary season is over Democrats will be united."
Clinton said in an interview over the weekend that she will not bow out.
"I have no intention of stopping until we finish what we started and until we see what happens in the next 10 contests and until we resolve Florida and Michigan," Clinton told The
The New York senator took most of the day off yesterday, but her campaign reinforced her message.
Clinton's husband said yesterday that those voicing concern about the duration of the nomination fight should relax and let the race run its course.
"There is somehow the suggestion that because we are having a vigorous debate about who would be the best president, we are going to weaken this party in the fall," President Clinton said at the California Democratic Party convention in San Jose. "Chill out."
Obama's rally drew an estimated 20,000 to 22,000 people, according to university official Richard DiEugenio - by far the biggest in a weekend of smaller, face-to-face campaign stops since Obama launched a six-day bus tour through the state on Friday.
Before the rally, he visited a university-run dairy farm and fed a one-month calf, laughing as the calf sucked hard on the bottle, draining it.
"She chowed that sucker down," Obama said.
The night before, he hit the lanes at a bowling alley in Altoona, where he was, by his own admission, terrible.
"My economic plan is better than my bowling," Obama told fellow bowlers Saturday evening at the Pleasant Valley Recreation Center.
"It has to be," one man called out.
As he laced up his bowling shoes, Obama let everyone know he hadn't bowled since Jimmy Carter was president.
"I was terrible," Obama laughed as he shook hands with people in a crowd that had gathered outside once word spread he was there.