In a series of surprise appearances yesterday, Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama flitted through the Philadelphia region in a final dash for votes, popping up at eateries, a barbershop, and a recreation center.
Under the El at 51st Street in West Philadelphia, Obama showed up at Major League Cuts, to the delight of customer Tariq Tidwell.
After shouting, "Mr. President," Tidwell, 46, a construction worker, got his picture taken with Obama and wife Michelle, while he sat in a barber chair draped neck to feet in a maroon cloth.
Charles Outlaw, the shop's owner, said he'd received five minutes' notice that the biggest story in America - the presidential primary in Pennsylvania - was about to land in his lap.
In Conshohocken, Clinton took up Boccella's restaurant on an impromptu invitation chalked out front: "Hillary, stop in for lunch."
With police cruisers and Secret Service agents in tow, Clinton ambled in after chatting up voters at a nearby polling place to order a chicken cheesesteak with Italian greens, onion and light sauce. To go.
Traveling fast, if not light, the candidates and their entourages of security, media and staff ambushed Philadelphia-area voters wherever they could find them.
Draya Lamacchia, 18, who lives on East Seventh Avenue in Conshohocken, said she heard that Clinton was coming to town when her grandmother called yesterday morning and said police were swarming the Fellowship House, a local recreation and learning center.
"She said, 'You better get up there and be my voice,' " said Lamacchia, who said she would vote for Clinton later in the day.
When the candidate showed up, in a periwinkle blazer, she chatted with surprised voters and residents, shaking hands and posing for pictures.
Karen Winiarz, 47, a disabled single mother from Conshohocken, told her it was an historic occasion.
"Thank you, my first time voting," said Winiarz. "This is finally worth the vote."
Clinton hugged U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak of Delaware County, posed with some firefighters and medics, and appeased a gaggle of girls clamoring for a photo.
"Everybody share, OK?" she told them as she stepped into her Suburban and was whisked off.
Obama got his obligatory dose of cheesesteak at a South Philadelphia landmark, Pat's King of Steaks at Ninth and Wharton Streets.
Along with his wife, he worked his way through the crowd to the counter, where he ordered two cheesesteaks, with onions. "Whiz with," Michelle Obama chimed in. (History: John Kerry infamously ordered his cheesesteak with Swiss.)
The couple sat down with a startled Charles McDermot of Roxborough and his daughter Ariel, 16. Obama had to fold his long frame to get under a bolted-down red plastic bench, at a bolted-down red plastic table, underneath the sidewalk overhang.
With the throng of cameras leaning over their shoulders, Obama and his wife tried to talk to their lunch companions. "We don't want to have Cheez Whiz dripping from our mouths," Obama said.
He ate all of the sandwich, then dipped into some French fries and opened a bottle of water. After taking a sip, he wiped his mouth with the back of his hand.
"Do I have cheesesteak in my teeth?" he asked McDermot.
McDermot, who manages a restaurant, said they talked about the "economy, a little bit about the gas crisis, and the war."
He said he planned to vote later in the day, for Obama: "I hope he gets it . . . but I think it's an uphill climb."
At day's end, Clinton settled in at the Park Hyatt at the Bellevue in Center City to watch the returns, and the Obamas headed for Indiana, where a primary will be held in two weeks.