The climactic round of voting is still 24 hours away, but the phone is ringing now for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton -- and it's a call from a party that's anxious (fiercely urgent?) to have things resolved. (How many rings will it take for her to pick it up?)
Yet she's making a big call of her own (a party-line connection): It's 3 am, and do you know where your Rezko-loving, NAFTA-flipping, universal-healthcare-lacking neophyte stands?
The Clinton campaign will follow one of three paths this week -- one that's good for her, one that's bad for her, and one that's ugly for the Democratic Party.
The "good" one involves actually winning the contests her campaign has been assuring supporters she will. That would slow and stop Sen. Barack Obama's momentum -- and, after a solid month of losses, we'd have a ballgame again, even if she'd still be trailing.
If she loses either Ohio or Texas (or both), then she chooses between bad and ugly. Either she gets out or she stays in -- and that choice will hinge on a key question: Does she see a distinction between the good of the Clintons and the good of the party?
Obama, naturally, wants to take a step back. Remember when this was a battle for delegates? He does -- and he joins his supporters in turning up the heat on Clinton, telling ABC's Terry Moran on Sunday that it's nearing time to end the nomination fight.
"If we do well in Texas and Ohio, I think the math is such where it's going to be hard for her to win the nomination, and they'll have to make a decision about how much longer they want to pursue it," said Obama, in an interview broadcast on "Good Morning America" on Monday, with more to come on Monday's "Nightline."
"We've been picking up superdelegates during the course of the last several weeks. And I would assume that there are going to be people who want to bring this to an end one way or another, because John McCain's out there," Obama said.
Obama's response to the "3 am" ad: "She has got a little desperate toward the end of this campaign."
Says Moran: "They think they're on the verge of nailing this thing down. . . . This candidate smells victory."
We can quibble over what clarity looks like, but Obama, D-Ill., enters the voting with a 113-delegate edge, per ABC's delegate scorecard. With polls tight in Ohio and Texas, even clear Clinton wins won't make a substantial difference making up that gap.
The key point that will shape the week: "Obama has such a big lead in pledged delegates that there is virtually no way Clinton can overtake him on Tuesday," Anne Kornblut and Shailagh Murray write in The Washington Post. "The best hope for keeping her candidacy alive, advisers acknowledge, is to win the popular vote in the two big states with contests and to break about even in the delegate hunt."
If Clinton does not sweep on Tuesday (and with apologies to Camp Clinton, it's Clinton -- not Obama -- who has more pressure this week), voices like this will begin to rise from the ranks of the superdelegates: "I just think that D-Day is Tuesday," Gov. Bill Richardson, D-N.M., said on "Face the Nation." "Whoever has the most delegates after Tuesday, a clear lead, should be, in my judgment, the nominee."