A softly lit Independence Hall glowed in the background as Barack Obama rallied 35,000 - and made national news and YouTube. Hillary Clinton strolled a bustling Chestnut Street in West Philadelphia - and the tag-along press corps took note.

And Philly's sleek skyline, day and night, was a choice backdrop for primetime.

For six weeks, the national and international media, not to mention bloggers and anyone with a cell phone, shined a megawatt light on the city - the hub for coverage of a state primary that was suddenly relevant for the first time in decades.

How did we fare?

Magnifique! it would seem. Why, on primary day, NBC anchor Brian Williams, quoting local native and Hardball host Chris Matthews, gushed: "Philadelphia is the Paris of the United States."

Pundits, no doubt, will weigh the impact of Pennsylvania's all-important election results ad nauseam, but the decisive winner of unrelenting coverage was the City of Brotherly Love.

"It's got to be a good uptick for Philadelphia," Christopher Harper, an associate journalism professor at Temple University who has worked in both print and broadcast, said of the "exceedingly positive" images put forth.

Even the comic approach of The Colbert Report, which taped for a week at Penn's "beautiful Annenberg Center" as host Stephen Colbert described it, gave the city a nice lift.

The late-night staple, who himself rates off the charts on cool, showcased the wit of Mayor Nutter, toured the National Constitution Center (making a comic star of its prez Joseph Torsella), gleefully leaped at the top of the Art Museum steps, prominently featured a montage of city highlights and even made Ben Franklin impersonator Ralph Archbold, who personifies historic Philadelphia, look hip and fresh as he bantered with him nightly. (Those close-ups of buxom Eagles cheerleaders could only have helped.)

The city was portrayed as "on the move, in a good direction," said public relations expert Michael Smith, an associate professor of communications at LaSalle University. Reporters largely bought into Nutter's message "of possibilities for the city."

The only negative image of Philadelphia that Smith could recall involved coverage of Obama's views on guns, where the Illinois senator cited the city's recent spike in murders.

For many outside Pennsylvania, the nation's sixth largest city is that vaguely familiar place between New York and D.C. that played a role in colonial times, favors cheesesteaks and has a panoply of problems. Oh yeah, and its sports fans booed Santa.

If not remade, the primary coverage at least polished and updated that impression.

"It's gone beyond the tough-guy image and the cheesesteak," Harper said. "The images going out are not of poor education, crime, desolation. . . . The image is one of excitement."

The primary was an "opportunity to broadcast about the diverse and resilient nature of our metro economy," said former Gov. Mark Schweiker, president of the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce.

The last time Philly got this type of attention was the 2000 Republican National Convention. The region's boost from that event, though, doesn't come close to the glare of this primary, Schweiker said. "What we've experienced . . . was a monthlong drumbeat of positivity," he said. "The convention was a 30-second sound bite."

Some outsiders were less enthusiastic. Coverage of our fair city stuck to "all the cliches of Philadelphia," said Andrew Tyndall, a New Yorker by way of England who monitors network news at tyndallreport.com. Vox-pop interviews inevitably took in the Art Museum steps of Rocky fame, cheesesteak chowdowns and shoppers at Reading Terminal.

"All publicity is good publicity," he allowed, citing the old saw. "It has to help. On the other hand, it's very stereotyped."

Still, the city came off better than the state did.

Stories of economic hardship often focused on the rural, white, small-town middle and west - the portion infamously dubbed Alabama.

Bittergate, too, was a black eye for the Keystone State, said Brent Smith, an assistant marketing professor at St. Joseph's University.

"So much of the focus on Pennsylvania has been, 'Are they bitter? Or not bitter?' " he said.

That contrast only made the home of the Tastykake look sweeter.

"People are impressed with Center City and how it looks," Tom Muldoon, president of the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau. "I've kind of enjoyed it and been proud this is my city."

His group did its part to sell Philly the product.

The bureau was among those touting the place and handing out gift bags (including Tastykakes) to VIPs and media as they entered the National Constitution Center for the April 16th debate between the Democratic candidates.

Even though the controversy over the debate itself may have stolen some of the luster, the setting was a striking visual. "That was Philadelphia really looking nice and shiny," said John J. Kennedy, an associate professor of political science at West Chester University.

It didn't hurt that the candidates regularly referenced history as our most famous sites stood tall in the background - the city's colonial setting not lost on them, nor the millions watching on television.

But Philadelphia's image wasn't only about the set. Kennedy and others noted it had a good front man or two, namely Nutter.

"People around the country know the name of the mayor of Philadelphia," said CNN's political director Sam Feist, a senior executive producer. "He's been on CNN almost every day" since the news network parked its red-white-and-blue Express bus in front of the Art Museum in mid-March.

Will Philly's pretty public face hold up or show its smudges?

"Any place's image is built up over time," Harper of Temple said. "One event does not an image make."

Contact staff writer Lini S. Kadaba at 215-854-5606 or Lkadaba@phillynews.com.