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About 1,800 guests will be at the Pennsylvania Convention Center tonight to honor outgoing Mayor Ed Rendell -- and amid the congratulations, the cocktails and the hors d' oeuvres, one of Rendell's personal friends and supporters will hold up his glass in praise. That friend just happens to be the leader of the free world. President Clinton will make remarks at a tribute to Rendell -- who was recently appointed general chairperson of the Democratic National Committee -- at the Grand Ballroom of the downtown Convention Center, which opened in 1994 and was one of Rendell's biggest accomplishments. "It's a way for the people in Philadelphia to pay tribute to the mayor," Rendell spokesperson David Yarkin said. Air Force One will likely land in a more peaceful city than it traveled to yesterday when Clinton visited Seattle -- the site of turbulent protests against a meeting of the World Trade Organization. Despite the turmoil raging on the other side of the country, Clinton will still appear in Philadelphia tonight to praise his Democratic ally. And he will probably keep his talk focused on Rendell, not on the WTO. The tribute will also serve as a Democratic Party fundraiser, Yarkin said. One of Rendell's main duties as DNC chief is to raise money for the upcoming 2000 elections. Yarkin said that Clinton is honoring Rendell's highly-touted mayoral record. "A lot of people have noticed the turnaround in Philadelphia," Yarkin said. Rendell, who will leave office next month after eight years in City Hall, has generated a massive economic revival in the city -- luring businesses, boosting tourism and improving the performing arts. Despite inheriting a Philadelphia engulfed in debt, the mayor has successfully streamlined operations and balanced the budget for six consecutive years. Those were the successes that brought Rendell to the attention of national party officials, who recruited him to head up the DNC for his business know-how, spunky personality and powerful fundraising skills. When he officially leaves office at the end of the year, Rendell will plunge right into a loaded schedule of touring and fundraising for the DNC. Clinton visited Philadelphia a month ago for a campaign appearance with Mayor-elect John Street, who fought off Republican challenger Sam Katz in a razor-thin election.

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