As the rug gets tugged out from under Clinton's feet, Obama tries to grab a corner of it Thursday on Capitol Hill, when he meets behind closed doors with superdelegates. Clinton, meanwhile, hits three time zones on the trail -- and maybe-still-happy warrior who, deep down, knows the realities of the race.
This is one case where whispers are being heard as if they're shouts: The superdelegates don't have to go public to push Clinton -- yet (though how long before those who might want a spot on the ticket see the value of a well-timed shove?). And the message from the Obama campaign is sharper for being lighter.
"There was no shortage of other ways to signal, suggest, insinuate or instigate the same thing," AP's David Espo writes. "And certainly no need to apply unseemly pressure to a historic political figure, a woman who has run a grueling race, won millions of votes and drawn uncounted numbers of new Democratic voters to the polls."
Democrats are (mostly) giving the Clintons the space they've earned. But "whethers" are becoming "whens," and don't think the Clinton campaign doesn't get it -- most of the campaign, anyway.
"Some Clinton advisers were resigned to their candidate's likely loss. They have turned in favor of her bowing out for party unity, according to several who asked not to be named," The Wall Street Journal's Jackie Calmes and Susan Davis write. "Only a few are said to be urging her to fight on, even to the Aug. 25-28 convention in Denver. Among these voices, the loudest belongs to her husband, former President Clinton, according to one longtime Democratic Party insider and Clinton supporter."
"Clinton advisers hope to ride out the rest of the week, knowing there will be talk about whether she will quit the race," per The Washington Post's Dan Balz, Anne Kornblut, and Perry Bacon Jr. "They think that a big victory in West Virginia would give her a new platform to make a case for herself."
But one Clinton adviser sums up the challenge: "If the supers weren't buying it before, it's hard to see how they'll buy it now."
That hastily arranged event in West Virginia Wednesday was all about symbolism; the likeliest scenario still keeps Clinton in through the final contests, June 3.
"You can turn elections in a day," Clinton said Wednesday night at a fundraiser in Washington, per ABC's Eloise Harper. "Too many people have fought too hard to see a woman in this race."
She makes her case in an interview with USA Today's Kathy Kiely and Jill Lawrence, and it's rather patently about race: "I have a much broader base to build a winning coalition on," Clinton said, arguing that "Sen. Obama's support among working, hard-working Americans, white Americans, is weakening again, and how whites in both states who had not completed college were supporting me."
"There's a pattern emerging here," Clinton said.
She's right, but it's a near-certainty that the pattern she's talking about is too late to matter.
Time magazine declares it over -- Obama's on the new cover, with the headline, "And the Winner Is . . . "
Here's an intriguing reason to stay in: "This is what some people close to the Clintons are talking about: Is there a way to negotiate a settlement with Barack Obama to have Sen. Clinton on the ticket?" ABC's George Stephanopoulos reported on "World News" Wednesday night. "Would Sen. Clinton take it? I think if it was offered in the right way, yes."