Monday was the kind of night in Saratoga Springs, 180 miles north of New York City, that you would not put a dog out in.
An Adirondack mountain storm hit with rain pounding from the heavens, drenching the town of 27,000 people famous for its racetrack season.
That did not deter the 1,200 supporters of Hillary Clinton who began lining up in the early dawn hours to await the arrival of their heroine for the book signing she was doing at the local Northshire bookstore on Broadway. Rain, hail or shine, they were hell-bent on showing up.
By 7 a.m. the line for the 10 a.m. signing stretched down the block and around the corner. Satellite TV trucks, photographers and local gawkers all showed up to await the most famous woman in the world.
Included were some Benghazi protesters, including one protester with a “Wicked Witch of Whitewater“ poster. “What’s Whitewater?” a female college student asked her friend.
I had joined the line about 10 o’clock when it had stretched three good city blocks, around two corners and showed no signs of slowing.
It would be nice to literally do some shoe leather journalism I thought, find out who the Hillary hard core is and why there is such fervor for her, according to almost every poll.
First of all it was obvious who the hard core is. Young and middle-aged women dominated and are bound together on an historic mission to have a female president elected.
Among them were girls barely of voting age and two older nuns, dressed in old fashioned convent garb, books in hands and patiently waiting their place in line.
All their lives, women young and old, have been preached to and pontificated about by male politicians in Washington, and not to their advantage.
Now they passionately believe it is their turn. Many expressed profound disappointment in Barack Obama; some almost shame-facedly admitted to voting for him.
Hope and history turned into over-excited hype and history for so many of them when it came to President Obama, and his lack of ability to get issues resolved annoyed them.
Where Obama was the catalyst for massive African American involvement, Clinton’s candidacy would do the same for women.
The latest polls show Clinton with an astonishing 46 percent vote from white people. Obama managed 38 percent, and you have to go back to Jimmy Carter to get a Democrat with such high numbers from white voters. When that number gets broken down white women make up a far larger percentage.
Those on the line expressed complete optimism that she was running. A woman from nearby Albany who worked in state government pointed to the allegedly non-aligned “Are you ready for Hillary” supporters marching up and down distributing stickers and taking down volunteer details.
It might well be the longest nod and a wink in political history.
Two hours after I joined we at last turned the corner into the bookstore side entrance. We passed those who were exiting, all flushed with excitement after meeting their heroine.
You have the sense of a political crusade rather than a movement, especially among women who are utterly committed in their support.
Finally, two hours and 15 minutes and a final strict security wand search we reached the upper landing of the bookstore where the signing was taking place. The room had the air of a One Direction concert with breathless devotion and all eyes trained on the main performer.
Madame Secretary, as some of her staff refer to her, was seated behind a table with two others. She was dressed elegantly in a black and white seamless top and dark slacks.
One assistant slides the book, she writes her name, the other slides it away to a fourth who presents it to the customer.
It is efficient, time-saving and very Hillary.
In person she looks remarkably unfazed by all the massive attention and hero worship. Last time I saw her in Belfast at the end of her Secretary of State era she looked exhausted and drained. Now she looks refreshed and ready to go.
Knowing her since I worked on her husband’s two election campaigns beginning in 1992 I have always admired that there is still a real person there, not one lost in a sea of political vanities.
She has kept her feet on the ground, a fact illustrated by our brief conversation where she recalls in stark details her work on Irish issues and events we attended.
Will she go to Ireland again soon? She smiles coyly and says no plans but word is that the imminent birth of her grandchild has become her one and major priority and why not after a lifetime of public service?
Outside on the street they still pass by on their way to the book signing. There is no other candidate in the 2016 race with even a smidgen of this devotion and commitment so early in the race and the chance of an Obama-type ambush seems even more unlikely.