Pennsylvania was Sen. Barack Obama's chance to salt away his lead, answer the demographic questions about his candidacy -- and put the Rev. Jeremiah Wright in his rearview mirror.
It was a nice thought. Make that oh-for-3 -- and objects in that mirror are now uncomfortably close.
Pennsylvania's wake has left Obama arguing that he's still ahead (and doing so on the side of not counting votes in two key states), explaining why he can't close the deal (despite the fact that it's not clear Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton can even make a deal work) -- and coping with the sudden, very public reemergence of that pastor he wished would spend the next six months in East Paraguay.
Lurking just off-stage for all of this is Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., refueling for the fall but also well into a savvy act of political positioning (and more than happy to pick up any Democrat's pieces when the time is right).
The Rev. Jeremiah Wright's interview with PBS' Bill Moyers -- to be broadcast Friday -- (followed by a PR blitz that includes weekend appearances in Dallas and Detroit and a speech at the National Press Club in Washington Monday) vaults Wright back into the public eye after six weeks of silence.
Maybe he'll convince the public that he was misunderstood, his fiery words taken out of context. Or maybe (stop us if you think we're off) he's supplying oxygen and dry brush to the flames that have threatened to engulf Obama.
"When something is taken like a sound bite for a political purpose and put constantly over and over again, looped in the face of the public," Wright says, "that's not a failure to communicate. Those who are doing that are communicating exactly what they want to do."
He may be correct -- but even trying to set the record straight ensures several more weeks of soundbites he and Obama don't get to choose.
"Barack Obama's biggest headache is back," Michael Saul writes in the New York Daily News.
"Wright, who for four decades built his reputation on straight talk and imperviousness to politicians, has been atypically quiet in recent weeks, canceling four appearances, declining all interview requests and bowing out of a news conference with other clergy," Manya A. Brachear writes in the Chicago Tribune.
That silence ends with a thud. The reverend wants context? As ABC's David Wright pointed out on "Good Morning America," his line about the chickens "coming home to roost" were actually referring to comments made by a former US ambassador, Edward Peck (who is white).
But: "Left out of the original sound bites broadcast on Good Morning America were Wright's version of how America was built on terror, his description of the United States 'as an arrogant, racist, military superpower,' and comments on the wealth or success of Oprah Winfrey, Colin Power, Condoleezza Rice and Tiger Woods," ABC's Brian Ross, Avni Patel, and Rehab El-Buri report.
And Wright offers this judgment of Obama -- perhaps the most damaging words from the interview. "He responded as a politician," Wright said of Obama.
Thanks in part to Wright, Obama is already the star of GOP advertising: Ads have popped up in North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, and New Mexico, tying local candidates to Obama and his more controversial associations.
It's a flash-forward from the general election campaign that just might have an impact on the primary.