As we revel in odd pairings -- Wall Street reels on the same day that Gov. Eliot Spitzer peals away; Vice President Dick Cheney and Sen. John McCain cross paths in Baghdad; not to mention the 5-12 match-ups that will consume much of the nation this week -- the most immediate problems facing the Democratic presidential candidates are revealed in a three-pack of questions.
1. The question the Obama campaign doesn't want asked: If the nomination really is clinched, why hasn't anyone told all the superdelegates?
2. The question the Clinton campaign doesn't want asked: If voters are having second thoughts about Sen. Barack Obama (if, that is, the "downward spiral" has begun), why does Obama have a bigger delegate edge than he did two weeks ago?
(And why are Iowa Democrats (more sure than ever of their choice?)
3. The question that the Democratic Party really doesn't want asked (now that the party's dirty big secret is out -- that votes and voters don't matter, not necessarily): Are the superdelegates willing to overturn the will of the people?
(And how do they judge that will, exactly?)
Whether or not his weekend laundry airing left Obama, D-Ill., with new bills to pay -- and regardless of whether Clinton can wine or dine her way to any more super-support -- the race's fundamentals are the same (if not enhanced by those unpredictable Iowans): Obama now leads by 129 delegates, per ABC's count, and he will still be leading (probably by a significant margin) whenever the voting ends.
(Close your eyes and imagine what Camp Clinton would be saying if Clinton had an edge anywhere near that level by the time we started filling out brackets.)
Only one candidate is the beneficiary of these comments, made unequivocally by a savvy politician whose voice may matter: "If the votes of the superdelegates overturn what's happened in the elections, it would be harmful to the Democratic Party," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told ABC's George Stephanopoulos on "This Week."
And that stance holds even if another candidate pulls ahead in the popular vote: "It's a delegate race," said Pelosi, D-Calif. "The way the system works is that the delegates choose the nominee."
Actually, that's not the system works, at least not entirely -- and certainly not if Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's campaign has anything to do with it.
But could this be former President Bill Clinton setting the bar his wife needs to clear to have a realistic shot? Superdelegates will "have to choose, if there is a difference" between the leader in delegates and the leader in the popular vote, he told ABC's Robin Roberts in an interview broadcast on "Good Morning America" Monday.
Said the former president (mixing spin with substance as only he can): "If Senator Obama wins the popular vote then the choice will be easier, but if Hillary wins the popular vote but can't quite catch up with the delegate votes, then you have to just ask yourself, which is more important, and who is more likely to win in November? I don't know that it'll be an easy decision, but that's what leaders sign up for."
As of this moment, Obama leads the popular vote by about 130,000 -- and that includes Florida and Michigan's disputed elections. Take them out, and the gap is in the 700,000-vote range.