How does one have a conversation if nobody's talking back anymore?
To the pundits, the math, and Sen. Barack Obama, we add Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's toughest foe yet: irrelevancy.
A week that should bring another split decision will also bring another Obama milestone: He's likely to clinch a majority of the pledged delegates, which, like just about everything, matters only really in how the supers view it. (Will it bring a Pelosi premium? And/or will it make hubris Obama's toughest foe?)
Your symbolic bookends for two campaigns headed in two different directions: Obama, D-Ill., capped his Sunday with a record crowd in Portland, Ore. -- 75,000 people crammed into a park and floating in kayaks and canoes not to see a football game or a rock star but a politician. ("Wow. Wow. Wow," said the orator.)
Clinton, D-N.Y., on Sunday spent an hour listening to a sermon based on Matthew 5:27-32 -- on lust and adultery. ("How is your commitment level in your marriage this morning?" said the pastor.)
Clinton -- running on some combination of fumes, inertia, and grit -- may yet stay in the race through May 31, June 3, or even longer. But the general election, it seems, has simply started without her.
"Barack Obama is hoping a strong showing in Oregon's Tuesday primary will finally slam the door on Hillary Clinton's bid for the presidential nomination," Matt Phillips and Amy Chozick write in The Wall Street Journal.
"With the fresh memory of Sen. Obama's loss last week in West Virginia -- where Sen. Clinton took 67% of the vote -- the Obama camp is also working to cut into Sen. Clinton's base of support among white working-class and rural voters in Oregon."
"Obama needs just 21 of the 103 delegates at stake [Tuesday in Oregon and Kentucky] to achieve a majority of pledged delegates," ABC's Tahman Bradley reports. "However, Obama will not be able to reach the magic 2,026 number of delegates needed to secure the nomination because he holds 1,904 delegates overall, according to ABC News' estimate."
"The prospect that Obama might clinch the nomination this week could change if the Obama campaign has a large number of superdelegates tucked in their back pocket, or if enough uncommitted superdelegates are ready to move on, feeling like the people have spoken and their choice is clear."
Either way, Tuesday will mark an important date in Obama's trajectory: "We will have a majority of the pledged delegates," Obama told ABC's Robin Roberts on "Good Morning America" Monday. "Obviously we won't have completed the nomination process because we'll still be a little bit short. . . . But I think it's an important milestone for our campaign."
And he laid down this marker for his foes: "I do wanna say this to the GOP: If they think that they're gonna try to make Michelle an issue in this campaign, they should be careful," Obama said, tagging efforts to take his wife's words out of context as "low class." "Because that I find unacceptable. The notion that you start attacking my wife or my family -- you know, Michelle is the most honest, the best person I know."
"These folks should lay off my wife. Alright? Just in case they're watching," he added (only slightly smiling).
(How does this square with the DNC's regular blasts at Cindy McCain, over her refusal to release her tax returns?)
Obama plans to spend his election night Tuesday in symbolically/electorally significant Iowa -- to (sort of) close it out where it all began, get it?