THE RAIN WAS falling sideways last night when Lynne Abraham planted herself in the path of soggy 9-to-5ers who were trying to get underground to catch a train home.

Some looked annoyed as they squeezed past the small pack of cameramen and photographers shadowing Abraham near the entrance to SEPTA's 15th Street Station.

But then one person stopped to shake hands with the former district attorney. Then another. Then someone posed for a photo with her, walking away clutching an Abraham-for-Mayor campaign flier.

For those few minutes, all was right in Abraham's world. It was a welcome break from the questions she faced about her health - and the health of her candidacy - after she shockingly collapsed Tuesday night at the start of a televised debate for Democratic mayoral candidates at the Kimmel Center.

"It was really simple. I neither ate nor drank anything [Tuesday]," Abraham said last night. "When you don't eat or drink, and stand up for a long period of time, sometimes you just lose it for a few minutes, and that's what I did. So I'm fine."

Abraham, 74, already has fended off questions about her age. Despite possessing citywide name recognition, she has not been able to keep pace, from a fundraising standpoint, with former City Councilman Jim Kenney and state Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams.

Several Philadelphia political insiders speculated that Tuesday's fainting spell had irreparably harmed her campaign.

Abraham wasn't having any of it. She attended two candidate forums yesterday - even showing off spry dance moves at one held at Murrell Dobbins High School in North Philly - and announced that she'd release an ethics-reform plan today.

"Listen, I fell with grace, but I rose with vigor and great determination," she said. "I'm ready to lead tomorrow, and I'm staying in this race forever, and nothing will dissuade me."

Sam Katz, a three-time mayoral candidate who hasn't ruled out running in November as an independent, said yesterday that Abraham could easily bounce back.

"By what standard is she done? Is she going to quit? I don't think so," he said. "Is her fundraising going to be more difficult? I don't think it could get any more difficult."

Katz predicted that the debate debacle would blow over - and fast. "I just don't see how in a six-week campaign what happens in one day is going to be remembered by anybody a week from now," he said.

The other mayoral campaigns did their best to support Abraham - at least publicly.

"Now that we know and all are happy that Mrs. Abraham is OK, we should get back to the business at hand and start taking a really careful look at the choices we have for mayor," said Doug Oliver's spokesman, Mustafa Rashed.

"We've had 24 hours of discussing doctors, physical health and medical records and the age of candidates, none of which have anything to do with the race. I'm sure Mrs. Abraham more than anyone wants to move on from this topic. Let's get back to work."

The substance of Tuesday's debate was largely overshadowed by the coverage of Abraham's collapse. That irked some of her opponents.

"Frankly all of us would rather be talking about the contents of the debate," said Barry Caro, spokesman for former Common Pleas Judge Nelson Diaz. "We understand why that was a newsworthy moment, but there were some pretty sharp differences on substantive issues [Tuesday]."

Interestingly, 54 percent of people who responded to an NBC10 online poll said they "might" vote for Abraham in the wake of the debate, aired by the station.

Abraham said she thought it was "silly" that so much discussion had been devoted to her tumble. She also said she doubted that her opponents would try to use the incident against her, noting that "character really counts" in a mayor's race.

She then turned her attention to the Center City commuters and passers-by, beaming when some stopped to shake her hand.

And then one man yelled out words of wisdom: "Stay hydrated!"