The pressure will reach new levels after Tuesday, almost regardless of the result. "While there has been a growing expectation that Mrs. Clinton would drop out if she did poorly on Tuesday, it is less clear what lesson she might draw from a mixed result," The New York Times' Brian Knowlton reports.
"Some political analysts said that Mrs. Clinton -- who has clearly sharpened her attacks on Obama, even as he has been outspending her -- appeared to have made some headway in recent days in raising doubts about his experience and readiness to be commander in chief."
Clinton communications director Howard Wolfson didn't sound ready to give anything up on ABC's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos." "Two percent is a very close number, considering how many delegates have [been awarded], how many Americans have voted," he said. "We're going to have a great day on Tuesday. We're going to win this nomination. This nomination fight is going to go forward after Ohio and Texas."
Between Rezko and NAFTA and red phones, there's just enough out there this Monday to make this thing interesting yet. Wedged between a national cable appearance and some time with Jon Stewart, expect an all-out Clinton assault (starting with a Monday morning press conference) in what could be her campaign's final election-eve. (And keep an eye out for Obama's two-minute closing ad Monday evening.)
Clinton, D-N.Y., is also displaying optimism (the campaign, she said Sunday, will go on "a lot [stumble] while longer") but some advisers are less than fully confident.
"Privately, Clinton campaign advisors say their own internal polls show the race tightening in Ohio and remaining very close in Texas," ABC's Kate Snow and Eloise Harper report.
"In their best case scenario, Clinton aides hope she could win Ohio by 3 to 6 points and squeak out a victory in Texas. They would consider that a good night and reason to fight on to Pennsylvania, which holds its primary on April 22. Other scenarios, they admit, are not so pretty."
The stakes are these: "If Barack Obama defeats Hillary Clinton in Texas or Ohio tomorrow, he will take control of a unified Democratic Party and enter the race against John McCain with an already-established reputation as a political giant-killer," Bloomberg's Catherine Dodge reports.
"Democrats have so far largely managed to avoid the kind of rancor that would split the party and endanger its prospects in November. . . . That may change if voters fail to deliver a clear verdict tomorrow."
As we peer into Clinton's mind, "Mrs. Clinton believes there are new whiffs of momentum around her," The New York Times' Patrick Healy reports. "For better or for worse, Mrs. Clinton has come full circle on her message, again embracing the strategic assumptions with which she began the campaign in January 2007: That she is the most able and experienced Democrat to be commander in chief, to manage the economy, and to win what she calls a 'wartime election' in November."
There's Clinton's ringing-phone ad, of course (and the Obama response -- bringing the campaign back to the Iraq-muddied ground Clinton hopes she'd left long ago).
"We're still waiting to hear Senator Clinton tell us what precise foreign policy experience that she is claiming, and that makes her prepared to answer that phone call at 3 in the morning," Obama said in Ohio, per The Dallas Morning News' Todd J. Gillman and Christy Hoppe.