Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton just needs to move the goalposts -- if only Sen. Barack Obama would stop scoring touchdowns.
Among everything that John Edwards might bring to Obama -- working-class voters, an establishment stamp of approval, contributing to the sense of inevitability about his nomination -- nothing is more important than this: He changed the storyline.
In a week that Clinton, D-N.Y., was hoping to slow things down, Obama, D-Ill., managed to speed them up.
This is how to lose a primary in style: A 41-point drubbing became smiling pictures of two former rivals. Clinton's evening-news victory lap got bumped by Obama and Edwards -- in a masterstroke of political timing that leaves Camp Clinton glum and scrambling, as if West Virginia had never happened.
Try to get clearer than this: "Americans have made their choices," Edwards, D-N.C., said at Obama's side in Michigan, "and so have I."
More immediately, the Democratic Party is making its choice -- and it's not just Edwards: NARAL Pro-Choice America chose the same day to announce its endorsement of Obama. It was not based on any issue, but on the extreme likelihood that Obama, not Clinton, will be the Democratic nominee.
As the pieces fall into place, will a wave of uncommitted superdelegates now stand and say, "No, he can't"?
Timing matters: "The declarations from Edwards and the National Abortion Rights Action League hit Clinton just as she sought momentum from her 41-percentage-point victory in Tuesday's West Virginia primary," Scott Helman writes in the Boston Globe. "The Democratic Party, meanwhile, has begun to rally around Obama as the presumptive presidential nominee."
One very prominent Democrat thinks the battle is done: "It adds one of the most influential Democratic voices to the chorus of party leaders who have concluded that Obama, despite the fact that five primary contests remain, is the de facto nominee, and that now is the time to begin unifying the party behind him," Helman writes.
It's way too easy to overvalue endorsements -- Edwards isn't even a superdelegate! -- but surely there was a reason that no other Democrat was as actively courted by Obama and Clinton (up to and including Al Gore).
It's a "dramatic move that brings Obama ever closer to donning the party's crown," Michael Saul and David Saltonstall write in the New York Daily News.
The endorsement boosts "Mr. Obama's efforts to rally the Democratic Party around his candidacy and [offers] potential help in his efforts to win over working class white voters in the general election," Jim Rutenberg writes in The New York Times. "A Southerner, he had directed his candidacy at the same white and working class voters Mr. Obama is trying to woo."
"The message to superdelegates: Edwards was content to let the race play out. Now, he's not. He wants this over. And you should too," per The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder.
Even James Carville is impressed: "It certainly helps in terms of psychology of the superdelegates," Carville told Diane Sawyer on ABC's "Good Morning America" Thursday.
"Obviously it is something that's good for Sen. Obama -- I wish he would have endorsed Sen. Clinton -- but I'm not sure how much it's going to translate into votes."