A win can be a win, surely. Yet a win can also be a loss. There will be a "winner" and a "loser" in Pennsylvania's primary on Tuesday -- or maybe two winners and two losers (or even three losers, if you count Bill Clinton).
Here's an easier way: As voters matter again -- this six-week pause in voting (if not spinning) finally comes to an end with Tuesday's primary -- all you need to know about the race you can learn by watching the delegates, in all their various forms.
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., may claim to be a hunter -- and she's after an elusive target. Pennsylvania is the biggest prize left on the Democratic calendar: 158 pledged delegates will be allocated in a state with 4.2 million Democrats -- including some 300,000 who have switched party affiliation or registered for the first time.
And another audience is more important: the undecided superdelegates. They'll be watching Tuesday's results on several levels -- for winners and losers (whatever that means), demographic breakdowns that speak to electability (whatever THAT means), and expressions of voter sentiment (politicians generally like keeping their jobs).
"The future of Mrs. Clinton's campaign [is] most likely resting on the outcome," Jeff Zeleny and John M. Broder write in The New York Times.
"Even a wide victory by her would not overcome her deficit in pledged delegates or in the popular vote of states that have held nominating contests, but it would ensure that the race moved on to contests in Indiana and North Carolina in two weeks, on May 6."
Clinton is favored to win her must-win state, but that outcome by itself will be a quick-hit energy boost when what she needs is a healthier long-term campaign lifestyle to overtake the clear frontrunner, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill.
"The margin in the popular vote ultimately will be secondary to how Pennsylvania affects the battle for pledged delegates," Dan Balz writes in The Washington Post. "Clinton badly needs to make up ground in the delegate fight and, given the way they're distributed, that could be difficult."
Obama comes into the voting with an edge of 145 delegates, per ABC's delegate scorecard, and proportional allocation means that the lead is unlikely to shrink substantially on Tuesday.
And how will voters and delegates view this final flash of the two edges that are Bill Clinton's sword? Asked about his infamous Jesse Jackson comments in South Carolina, the former president tells WHY, "I think that they played the race card on me. And we now know, from memos from the campaign and everything that they planned to do it all along."
"I was stating a fact, and it's still a fact," he adds, referring to Obama's support among black voters. (And beware the open mic -- and open-ended questions like this one, Mr. President: As the phone interview ends, Bill Clinton says, "I don't think I should take any sh-t from anybody on that, do you?")
Obama did what he could (and then some) to downplay expectations. Said Obama: "I'm not predicting a win. . . . I'm predicting that it's going to be close and that we are going to do a lot better than people expect." Said chief strategist David Axelrod: "I am not standing here telling you we expect to win. . . . I don't think anybody expects us to win."