Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne has perfect pitch of the Democratic establishment inside D.C.’s permanent party machine. His take on today’s contests:
My view is that Obama’s backers have to be careful not to look like they are escorting Clinton out the door prematurely, but that Clinton has to be realistic about her chances and the party’s needs. If she wins the popular vote in both Texas and Ohio, she has a decent case for staying in. If she loses one, the race is over and my hunch is that she will act accordingly.
Consider that a nudge, nudge, wink, wink to Team Hillary.
UPDATE: The Post’s Dan Baltz agrees:
The one certain way to end the race is for Barack Obama to win both Texas and Ohio — no small undertaking. That would erase any doubts that may exist about his ability to take big states or to energize a working-class base in a crucial general-election state. It would create enormous pressure on Hillary Rodham Clinton to bow out.
Even an Obama victory in one of today’s two big states is likely to result in the race ending, although perhaps not immediately. Former president Bill Clinton established that benchmark recently and though his wife’s advisers have tried to back away from it, many Democrats have adopted it as the measure by which they judge today’s results.
“WJC’s [William Jefferson Clinton’s] comments were extremely harmful in managing expectations,” noted one Democratic strategist.
So, if HRC staggers BO today, the GOP will be popping corks all night long as the inevitability of a long, drawn out and increasingly bitter fight becomes obvious.