The Note: Secrets of Letting Go

If what we learned from MacArthur applies to politicians as well as old soldiers, it's only a matter of time before the Clintons fade away.

If what we learned in third grade applies to presidential candidates as well as schoolyard bullies, ignoring Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton might make her go away.

(And if what we learn from watching politics matters at all anymore, you can't run a campaign without any money -- and no uncommitted superdelegate will want to be the last one on a train that's firing its way out of a hopeful station.)

But what if the old rules don't apply to Clintons? And even if they do -- what happens in the stretch of time before they kick in?

Even if the Clintons watch their words these next few weeks, Clinton is almost certainly asking Democrats to vote against their nominee before they vote for him (and they will, in large numbers, starting Tuesday in West Virginia).

Even if Sen. Clinton goes quickly and quietly when the voting is done, the damage until that point is real (it's not like the Republicans are taking this time off) -- and there's nothing quick or quiet about what's going on.

Clinton is heavily favored to win West Virginia, and Sen. Barack Obama doesn't seem to care very much; in the week since Indiana and North Carolina, he makes his first and last campaign stop there on Monday.

Unless the superdelegates change their minds -- and fast -- even wide Obama losses will matter approximately not at all -- except that they might, just not in the way Clinton hopes they will.

"The toughest question for Hillary Clinton now is not if she drops out of the presidential race, or even when. It's how," David Saltonstall writes in the New York Daily News. "Does she go down swinging at Democratic rival Barack Obama until the final primary on June 3, forcing Obama to spend precious time and money along the way? Or does she edge off the presidential stage more gracefully, looking for common ground with her fellow Democrat while focusing her barbs at presumptive GOP nominee John McCain?"

Hillary is sticking around: "It's not over until the lady in the pantsuit says it is," she said Sunday, quoting a message she said she got from a supporter, per ABC's Eloise Harper.

The only mother in the race was the only candidate who didn't take Mother's Day off: "This is an awkward phase in a long campaign. Mrs. Clinton has not quite given up her quest for the nomination, and Mr. Obama has not quite finished his," Katharine Q. Seelye writes in The New York Times. "But if Mrs. Clinton is to have a chance, her campaign understands the importance of invigorating her most loyal and passionate supporters -- the women who see her as sharing their interests and aspirations."

Bill Clinton isn't exactly traversing common ground, not by firing up class divides in West Virginia. "What purpose does it serve for him to barnstorm a state like West Virginia and tell rural voters that Obama and his elitist political/media cabal allies are mocking Appalachia?" ABC's Jake Tapper writes. "He's using the kind of language Democrats typically use against Republicans -- as in, stuff you say when you don't want voters to vote for the other guy under any circumstance. This is tough stuff to walk back from."

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