NEW YORK — Mixing grace with defiance, Hillary Clinton acknowledged Tuesday night that her presidential campaign has reached the end of the road but her quest for the White House hasn't.
Sounding like someone who's been beaten but still has lots of fight left, Clinton stood on a stage inside a bunker-like basement gymnasium full of supporters inside a Manhattan college and vowed to carry on - for the time being.
"I understand a lot of people are asking 'What does Hillary want? What does she want?'" she said, playfully asking the question that sent critics into a frenzy in recent days as her defeat became inevitable while she refused to accept it.
"I want to end the war in Iraq...I want health care for every American, I want every child to live up to his or her God-given potential and I want the 18 million Americans who voted for me to be respected, to be heard...," she said.
Respect was the word of the night among the people who filled the gym. Some accused Democratic rival Barack Obama and his campaign of disrespecting Clinton and her supporters.
"He has to give her 100 percent of the respect she deserves," said Lynn Rothschild, a New Yorker who's a member of the Democratic National Committee Platform Committee. "To most of us, that translates into running mate. I think he's in a lot of trouble if he doesn't give her the respect she deserves."
Getting Obama and Clinton to agree to a so-called "Dream Ticket" might not be easy, acknowledge Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., a cheerleader for an Obama-Clinton 08 ticket.
Differences over health care policy and hard feelings from the bitter, bruising campaign must be overcome. It can't be done in a day, he said.
"You need to date a little before you get married," Rangel advised.
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Tex., national co-chair of Clinton's campaign, said she was willing to be a chaperone. Lee was a rhetorical bomb thrower for Clinton, but those days are over, she said.
"I've got a new name: Sheila Jackson Lee, Healer," she said.
Clinton's event Tuesday night had a bittersweet feel. While saying that she hasn't made a decision about the future of her campaign, she thanked her staff, family and friends in the way candidates about to stand down do.
The crowd inside the gym was filled with campaign staffers and advance workers who were told earlier that their services weren't needed - for now. Some hugged and huddled with colleagues, exchanging information about what they were doing and where they were heading now that they didn't have to worry about the next rally.
Die-hard supporters took places on bleachers behind the podium where Clinton spoke. They chanted "Yes She Will!" and "Hill-ar-ree! Our nom-in-nee," before she arrived and as she spoke.
Longtime Clinton aides and advisers, such as former Clinton administration official Lanny Davis, continued to spin, telling reporters in a hallway that Obama needs Hillary Clinton in order to win the White House.
If anyone came here looking for a wake, they didn't find one.
"I'm feeling good tonight because of what we've accomplished," Lee said. "I'm seeing the glass as half full. I'm not going to concede a wake."