The Note: Hopes and Dreams

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From underneath the wave, Democrats saw their shadow -- and it's a forecast of seven more weeks of campaigning.

One more time, for old time's sake -- this thing is a race again. (How's that for a hope and a dream?)

It turned out that Brett Favre was the only veteran to retire on Tuesday: Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., didn't even need to lower the bar to clear it -- the streak was snapped after Vermont made it an even dozen, with Texas, Ohio, and Rhode Island coming through for Clinton.

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It had been a long month between victories (and may still have been too long -- the delegate count looms large), but it's enough to shift the scrutiny to her rival, as Camp Clinton pushes the storyline of buyer's remorse.

As for Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., Tuesday makes three swings for the fences -- and three whiffs. If you want to beat a Clinton, you have to make sure you've finished the job.

(Obama is still the frontrunner, but if Obama thinks resting on a delegate lead is enough, he skipped 16 years' worth of Clinton-delivered lessons. Who better in Democratic politics today to reinvent math?)

And Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., sees his lucky streak continue: He wins twice on Tuesday -- sealing up the nomination, and guaranteeing another round of Democrats doing his dirty work for him. Clinton and Obama rejoin the battle of the decade on Wednesday, while the GOP enjoys a Rose Garden photo op that's the very picture of party unity.

Clinton is taking on Obama by means of trying to take on McCain. "This election now is not only between Sen. Obama and myself. It is, in the voter's mind, between one of us and Sen. McCain. I think that's why I did so well last night," Clinton said Wednesday on ABC's "Good Morning America."

"I think national security is the issue against John McCain. I think it is not only legitimate, it's necessary to ask voters to determine who they would like to see as commander-in-chief," Clinton added. "Now it's a real choice, because we know who the Republican nominee is going to be, and I think voters are going to want someone who can stand up on that stage, toe-to-toe with John McCain."

(And decide for yourself whether Clinton's favorable inclination toward a Clinton-Obama ticket is truth-telling, pandering, condescension, or some mix of the three sentiments.)

Now it's Obama minimizing the import of a rival's victories. "Senator Clinton is tenacious, and, you know, she keeps on ticking, and we've just got to make sure that we continue to work hard in every contest," Obama told ABC's Diane Sawyer Wednesday morning on "GMA." "We had won 12 in a row. She won two. [Speaking of fuzzy math, it's actually three.]

"As you stated, these were states that she had huge leads going into it, and we closed that gap, but we couldn't close it as much as we'd like," Obama said. "It's going to be very hard for her to catch up on the pledged-delegate count."

These are verbs Obama isn't used to seeing attached to other people's names: "Her victories snapped his winning streak at 12 consecutive contests, rejuvenated her struggling candidacy and jolted a Democratic Party establishment that was beginning to see Obama as the likely nominee," Dan Balz and Jon Cohen write in The Washington Post.

The watchword circling inside of Camp Clinton: Restart.

The word inside Obamaland: Delegates.

The two words everywhere else in the Democratic Party: Civil war.

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