The line stretched down the street and around the corner—then down the next street and around another corner. Fans of her political celebrity—young, old and everything in between—donned "I'm Ready for Hillary!" stickers, waiting hours just to get into a New York City bookstore. They had come early, hundreds of them, some as early as the night before, and all to get a glimpse of—and a book signed by—the woman they hope will be the next President of the United States: Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Clinton, the former Secretary of State and would-be 2016 presidential candidate, kicked off the tour for her new book Hard Choices at a Manhattan Barnes & Noble on Tuesday. Forget Iowa and New Hampshire: For a few hours, Union Square was the epicenter of American politics, with all eyes on Clinton as she promoted a book that is widely seen as a prelude to one last run at the White House.
She wasn't scheduled to arrive until 11 a.m. Not wanting to miss out, some came at 9:30—the night before. Dana Watters, a 27-year-old New York grad student, said she was already behind several people in line when she arrived about 13 hours before the event.
"I'm not 100 percent sure what came out of my mouth [when meeting Clinton], but it was somewhere along the lines of telling her I've been a fan of her since I was 6," Watters said.
"I asked her if it was too soon to call her 'Madame President,' and she said 'Hillary' was fine for now," said Bert Feldstein, a 72-year-old retired human resources worker from Long Island.
Clinton has said repeatedly—both in remarks and in her book—that she hasn't decided whether or not to seek the White House again. But with a bus sponsored by the Ready for Hillary super PAC parked outside the night before, presidential politics were the first, second and third topics of conversation.
"The main reason I'm here is because of my mom. She passed away two months ago, and it was her dying wish that Hillary become president," Kevin Gussiaas, a 54-year-old health care worker in New York, said. "I don't think there's anybody who could replace her."
Republicans, convinced as anyone that the book tour is a campaign-in-waiting, wasted few opportunities to take Clinton down a peg. They highlighted bad reviews of the book, drew attention to off-tone remarks Clinton made earlier about being "dead broke" after leaving the White House, and circulated "fact vs. fiction" opposition research about the book's contents. The Drudge Report highlighted a journalist's Twitter post about the book being deeply discounted atop its site with the banner headline "SLASHED."
"@HillaryClinton's book launch facing poor reviews & stumbling messaging," Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus wrote on Twitter.
But outside the Union Square Barnes & Noble, Clinton supporters saw opportunity. Warnings about security measures and that the former first lady wouldn't be personalizing the signatures on books didn't seem to dent the mood.
"I think it would be political malpractice to not take the energy and excitement around her and organize it around that today," said Adam Parkhomenko, the executive director of Ready for Hillary, the super PAC that has been quietly blessed by Clinton allies and has raised more than $6 million.
Bailey Ellicott, a 17-year old student from Manasquan, N.J., who woke up at 4:30 a.m. and missed school, hopes to cast her first vote in a Presidential election for Clinton. "She's my role model. I look up to her," Ellicott said. "I can't picture myself voting for anyone else but her."
Others said their support for Clinton stretched back to her 2008 campaign and earlier, to when her husband was in the Oval Office.
"When I voted for Bill Clinton, I was really voting for Hillary," said Robert Shanley, a 63-year-old New York hotel worker. "I think she was really the brains behind Bill, and she'd make a great president. ... I'll be thrilled to see her in the White House."
"I would sell my soul to work on her campaign," Watters said.
Camille Desantis, the 53-year-old founder of a brand development company in New York, echoed many in expressing optimism that 2016 might finally see the first election of a female president.
"I think it's time for the country to have a woman president," she said. "It's time for that ceiling to go away," Desantis said. "I don't think we would be having some of the issues we're having today if she were in the White House now."