The Note: After Midnight

Sometimes, like a Cinderella team marching through March, Sen. Barack Obama's presidential campaign seems nothing short of charmed.

It helps that while Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton has 10 weeks to make Obama totally and entirely unelectable, Obama just has to wait out the clock.

But the outside help Obama is getting (some that he asked for, some that he didn't) is the X-factor -- and it means that, even as Obama grapples with perhaps the biggest challenge to his candidacy, he will be the nominee short of something else dramatic happening in the race that's already seen everything.

To survey the data points on a good Friday in Obamaland, in what had the potential to be a very rough week:

- Obama controls Friday's marquee event -- a 12:30 pm ET endorsement in Oregon by Governor/superdelegate/former Clinton Cabinet secretary/former candidate Bill Richardson, D-N.M., who provides a handy answer to the he's-not-ready argument (and who resisted the full Clinton press).

Richardson's key line, from the endorsement announcement (news of which broke, for what it's worth, a few minutes after 3 am, prompting different kinds of phone calls): "There is no doubt in my mind that Barack Obama has the judgment and courage we need in a commander in chief when our nation's security is on the line."

This from the e-mail message sent to Richardson supporters in the wee hours: "The 1990's were a decade of peace and prosperity because of the competent and enlightened leadership of the Clinton administration, but it is now time for a new generation of leadership to lead America forward."

"This is a really big deal, and it couldn't come at a better time" for Obama, ABC's George Stephanopoulos said on "Good Morning America." "Obama will owe him big."

(And, for better or worse, former senator John Edwards is staying out of the fight.)

- Michigan, by not voting again, breaks Obama's way -- remember that the status quo is very good for him these days. That plus Florida means two very big states that weren't in his column will not, in all likelihood, count for anything in the delegate race.

- The timing of the Clinton library document dump means that reporters are probing Clinton's record (including every crumpet consumed on a foreign trip) at the very time the Clinton campaign wants the focus on Obama's record.

- Surely Obama didn't ask for his private information to be improperly accessed by State Department workers. But how does a story about Bush administration ineptitude (with hints of dirty tricks) not work to his benefit?

- And while his speech this week on that whole little race thing may not have put anything in his rearview mirror, Clinton is struggling for a way to do anything about it (and a picture like this, while pointless, makes it just that much tougher).

The controversy over Rev. Jeremiah Wright should be, for Clinton, the story that says everything -- it puts Obama in an uncomfortable race box, and the sermon clips speak for themselves.

Yet: "As a matter of strategy, top Clinton allies and advisers said Thursday they were treading carefully when it came to talking about Mr. Wright with superdelegates," Patrick Healy writes in The New York Times. "The difficulty, Clinton advisers and political analysts said, was that a race-based argument against Mr. Obama's electability was unappealing and divisive and cut against the image of the Democratic Party and its principles."

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