As the candidates and their party pause to ponder what it is they've created in this interminable campaign, seven immutable truths about the battle for the Democratic nomination:
1. Nobody is getting to 2,024 without a whole lot of help from superdelegates (any number announced on Thursday will not constitute a pro-Obama flood, and with apologies to Howard Dean, the Democratic Party is getting exactly what it bargained for).
2. Neither candidate is close to closing the deal with the vast majority of those still on the fence (and before the Clinton campaign can convince more of them to sign on, she's got to stop the eruptions of anger emanating from insider her inner circle).
4. Do-overs are for playground football (but if they're good enough for Florida and Michigan, cancel those summer vacation plans, too).
5. Talk of a Clinton-Obama ticket is so premature it's hilarious -- if not for the fact that it's more than a little patronizing for the candidate who's behind to suggest the frontrunner may make a nice partner. (And we look forward to hearing why Sen. Clinton thinks a man who's not ready for Day One is ready for Day Two.)
6. Polls like this will serve to calm calls for quick resolution to the race (but does anyone think Sen. John McCain will go seven clear weeks without picking up ground?).
7. Sen. Barack Obama has at least as much to prove to the Democratic Party as Clinton does (and, possibly, quite a bit more).
Obama, D-Ill., remains the race's clear frontrunner -- and he will be as long as he maintains a delegate lead anywhere close to the level he now enjoys (109, per ABC's latest count, despite Tuesday's washout).
But he faces continued skepticism from an anxious party that desperately wants to win. Three chances to close out Clinton have passed him by, and this is not the first time he's come out saying it's time to fight.
"After defeats in two of the most populous states, he also sounded like a chastened candidate in search of his lost moment," Michael Powell and Jeff Zeleny write in The New York Times. "Mr. Obama once again failed to administer an electoral coup de grâce, and so allowed a tenacious rival to elude his grasp. Now, after appearing nearly invincible just last week, he faces questions about his toughness and vulnerabilities — never mind seven weeks of tramping across Pennsylvania, the site of the next big primary showdown."
If his talk about taking the fight to Clinton sounds familiar, that's because it should: "He picks up the cudgel, and then sets it down," Powell and Zeleny writes. "The problem is that Mr. Obama has built a campaign persona as the man of hope, a young candidate with oratorical skills who promises to build bridges across the ideological divide."
This is Obama dipping his toe in the water, again: "Obama returned to Chicago for a brief rest, pledged to campaign for 'a few more weeks' and challenged the media to more thoroughly examine Clinton's record," John McCormick writes in the Chicago Tribune. Said Obama: "If the suggestion is somehow that on issues of ethics, or disclosure or transparency, that somehow she's going to have a better record than I have and will be better able to withstand Republican attacks, that's an issue that should be tested."