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PHILADELPHIA — The Founding Fathers likely could not have imagined the scene Monday night outside Independence Hall, the building where they signed the Declaration of Independence and debated the Constitution more than two centuries ago.
A black man, standing behind the seal of the President of the United States, passed the torch of the world’s longest lasting democracy to a woman on the eve of an election that polls say she is favored to win.
With Jersey rock heroes Bruce Springsteen and Jon Bon Jovi as warm-up acts, and former President Bill Clinton and first lady Michelle Obama looking on, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama rallied the largest crowd of her campaign — 33,000 strong — to mark the end of one presidency and the beginning, they hope, of another.
Few presidents have left office as popular as Obama, who is the first sitting president in decades with the standing to vigorously campaign for his chosen successor.
And a single party has held the White House for three consecutive terms only once since World War II, when George H.W. Bush took over for Ronald Reagan.
Proud of his legacy and aware of the need to elect a Democrat to defend it, Obama has poured himself in his role as campaigner-in-chief, which has also provided him a victory lap.
"We turned 'yes we can’ into ‘yes we did,’” Obama said at his last campaign event as president, invoking the slogan from his first presidential run.
Representing one class of people left out by the Founding Fathers’ promise of equality and endorsing someone who represents another, Obama urged Americans to chose faith in America’s ability to improve over cynicism about its failings.
“Philadelphia, in this place, where our Founders forged the documents of freedom, in this place where they gave us the tools to perfect our union, if you share my faith, then I ask you vote," he said.
Pennsylvania, appropriately nicknamed the Keystone State, is central to both Clinton and Donald Trump’s path to 270 electoral votes. With no early voting, Clinton and her top surrogates like Obama have been trying to gin up enthusiasm here before voters head to the polls.
Clinton’s husband, the former president, took a smaller role on stage, speaking for only a few minutes before introducing Michelle Obama, who he noted had been an effective campaigner for his wife.
When she took the stage to close the night, Hillary Clinton thanked the Obamas for the their leadership, and a relationship that began with a bitterly fought primary campaign eight years ago.
"What is so special to me is that we have our amazing president and first lady with us. Because for nearly eight years they lead us with grace, strength, brilliance and whole lot of cool," Clinton said.
"Our core values have been tested in this election," she continued. "The real question for us is what kind of question we want to be and what kind of future we want to build for our children."