The Note: Exit Strategies

So now that Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton has survived (sort of) her roughest week yet -- which way toward her (officially deemed inevitable) exit?

Will the public calls from (former) friends reach critical mass?

Could Sen. Barack Obama simply declare the race over? (Watch May 20th.)

Will her financial fumes evaporate? (And would a bailout matter?)

Will it just be math -- as tallied by the superdelegates? (Two more dropped Friday morning, and those scoring at home will notice a new super-leader, for the first time this campaign.)

Will it take a job offer?

Sober consideration of what's next?

Or will the general election just start without her?

An important symbolic threshold was crossed on Friday: With two new superdelegate endorsements (including one switch from Clinton), Obama now has the support of 267 supers, to Clinton's 265, per ABC's count.

Clinton's insider support -- a cornerstone of her campaign's foundation, and its building plans for whatever future it has left -- is stalled and shrinking, as smart political types bow to realities. (And don't miss how crisply the Obama campaign rolled these out through the local newspapers.)

"Clinton's advantage among superdelegates was once massive and has been dwindling steadily since Super Tuesday, when she was ahead by over 60 superdelegates," ABC's Karen Travers reports.

"That means he leads in every important metric in this race right now," ABC's George Stephanopoulos said on "Good Morning America" Friday. "He is consolidating this victory, moving toward unifying the party, and really not looking back."

"It's clear now that Sen. Obama is going to be the nominee," he added. "I think the only thing now is working out the details of how to get it done -- and I would just say, before June."

This is the group Clinton needs to reject Obama in overwhelming numbers, and yet:

Obama "represents our best chance of winning in November," Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., told The Oregonian's Jeff Mapes.

"It's time now for us to pull our party together," former Clinton backer Rep. Donald Payne, D-N.J., tells The Star-Ledger's Robert Schwaneberg.

Contrast that with the enthusiasm of Clinton's new super, Rep. Chris Carney, D-Pa., who points out that Clinton was favored by his district's voters: "I will respect their decision."

That extraordinary scene on the House floor Thursday, with Obama feted as a conquering hero (in the same neighborhood Clinton has trouble scheduling meetings a day earlier) was a decent measure of which way the wind gusts.

"Mr. Obama made a celebratory return to the Capitol, where he received an enthusiastic reception on the House floor in an appearance staged to position him as the party's inevitable nominee," Carl Hulse and David M. Herszenhorn write in The New York Times.

"Senior Democratic officials said he met with Speaker Nancy Pelosi when their paths crossed at Democratic Party headquarters. They had spoken by telephone earlier in the week. Ms. Pelosi and Mrs. Clinton have had no known recent talks."

"He looked every bit the triumphant Democratic nominee as he marched on foot in the drizzling rain with some members of Congress from a meeting nearby into the Capitol building," ABC's Z. Byron Wolf and Jacqueline Klingebiel report.

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