This time, the sharp blades of spin cut in both directions: Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton both have must-win contests on Tuesday -- and the Democratic contest just might be lurching toward something political scientists call a "conclusion."
But not so fast: Delegates will become an increasingly precious commodity after Tuesday; your stat for the day is that nearly as many delegates (187) will be awarded in Indiana and North Carolina as will be in all the remaining contests combined (217). And Indiana figures to be one of the last contests where the outcome is realistically in doubt.
Obama looks to end a long losing streak (and put the roughest stretch of his campaign behind him), while Clinton looks to continue her improbable winning streak. Whether those results have any relationship to actually winning or losing the nomination will depend on how they're interpreted by that tiny crowd of voters that sees its super-powers growing by the day.
For both Obama and Clinton, Tuesday marks the last best chance to add delegates -- and, more importantly in the long arc of this nomination fight, make their cases to the superdelegates.
"It will be an opportunity for Mrs. Clinton to make the case that Democratic sentiment is swinging in her favor, and to slice into Mr. Obama's lead in pledged delegates and in the popular vote," Adam Nagourney writes in The New York Times, where he outlines three scenarios for the day's results. "For Mr. Obama, it is a chance to tamp down talk that Mrs. Clinton has exposed him as a flawed general election candidate."
The takeaway: Tuesday is unlikely to end anything: "The most likely split would be Mrs. Clinton winning Indiana and Mr. Obama winning North Carolina. That would almost surely mean the race would go on," Nagourney writes.
"Today is likely to be 'Groundhog Day': Six more weeks of this campaign," ABC's George Stephanopoulos reported on "Good Morning America" Tuesday, pegging Clinton for a 4-to-8-point victory in Indiana, and Obama for a solid win in North Carolina.
The Washington Post's Dan Balz sees Tuesday's contests answering questions on everything from the Wright effect to the politics of gas prices, and offers this viewer's guide: "North Carolina holds the potential to shake up the Democratic race. Clinton rightly called it a possible game-changer last week. Simply holding Obama's expected victory down into the single digits will be described by the Clinton forces as a moral victory and could signal continuing problems for Obama among white voters."
If the day ends the way polls predict, keep this in mind: The team that's down in the standings late in the season can't afford to split doubleheaders.
Obama's magic number is growing smaller by the day: Three more superdelegate endorsements Monday (including two in Maryland) bring Obama's overall delegate lead to 144, per ABC's delegate scorecard -- and Clinton's advantage among the supers is down to a slim 10.
The likeliest result would deposit us somewhere in the neighborhood of the status quo. For Clinton, one win is enough to justify another month of campaigning: "If her campaign gains momentum out of Tuesday's primaries, the next six contests in West Virginia, Kentucky, Oregon, Puerto Rico, Montana and South Dakota may afford enough opportunities for victory to sustain her campaign at least through June 3," Charles Mahtesian and David Mark write for Politico.