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With pizza and prose, Hillary Clinton plays to her crowd

 (Barbara Demick / Los Angeles Times)
(Barbara Demick / Los Angeles Times)

For somebody who often is reviled by political pundits (“Can Hillary Clinton Please Go Quietly Into the Night?” read a headline in Vanity Fair), the turnout Tuesday morning at a bookstore in Manhattan was a reminder that the vanquished White House hopeful still can command a rock-star following.  

And that the people who love her do so for herself — not just because of her husband or because she was not Donald Trump.

“The narrative that you always hear is that people voted for her because she wasn’t Trump, but they forget there are many people who love Hillary for herself,” said 27-year-old Catherina Messier, a recent graduate in theater studies from Brandeis University.

“She knows how to take a punch. Every woman knows what it is like to be intimidated by a guy. She was an inspiration for women, even those who didn’t like her, because you couldn’t help but see how strong she was.”

People lined up overnight in front of the bookstore at Union Square to get signed copies of Clinton’s book, “What Happened,” drinking coffee and munching on complimentary pizza — which Clinton’s advance team had ordered delivered Monday might for the fans on the sidewalk. They indulged in a favorite pastime among New Yorkers (complaining about Trump) and downloaded a new episode of “Pod Save America” (an anti-Trump podcast) with a Clinton interview.

Like the release of a new Harry Potter book, this was as much a happening as a book signing. People dressed for the occasion, displaying their politics on their T-shirts. One woman even dressed in a horizontally striped navy-and-white dress designed to look like Clinton’s book cover.

Nary a “Make America Great Again” symbol could be found in this crowd.

But one 18-year-old New York University student, who said he would have voted for Trump if he had been old enough, wore a Barry Goldwater T-shirt.

 “I figured that would be safe because maybe people don’t remember who he was,” said the student, Gabriel Deen, who also had tucked under his arm a newly purchased copy of William F. Buckley’s “Getting it Right.”

While many Democrats blame Clinton for the mistakes that allowed Trump to win the White House, it was her humiliating loss that has endeared her to many of the fans. If anything, Clinton looks more appealing in defeat than she was as a cocky front-runner, fans said.

“Women are always dumped on and disrespected. She’s a hero for the way she stood up under pressure,” said Brandon Powell, a 24-year-old in reflective shades from Brooklyn.

“I just like Hillary and like being with other Hillary lovers,” said Chris Rudolf, 33, a writer and former campaign volunteer who proudly displayed his campaign buttons on his T-shirt like a retired general.

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