Barack Obama could not "close the deal" in Pennsylvania on Tuesday night. Hillary Clinton said so, and just about every talking head on TV used that phrase.
Though Obama has won twice as many contests as Clinton, this man clearly suffers from a failure to close.
Why? It may be because, as Clinton argues in her TV ads, he does not have "what it takes" to be president and lead the nation in crisis. (The ad features pictures not just of Osama bin Laden, but also of Pearl Harbor, suggesting, I guess, that Clinton will protect us not just from Al Qaeda but also from the Japanese.)
While Clinton did not actually call Obama a wimp in Pennsylvania, she did say he was "elitist and out of touch" and "demeaning." She can also drink him under the table. (And he stinks at bowling.)
Clinton continues to do well in big states, having previously won primaries in California, Massachusetts and Ohio.
The good news for Obama, however, is that in the contest that actually counts who wins the most pledged delegates to the Democratic Convention his lead appears to be unassailable.
In other words, he probably "closed the deal" when, after Super Tuesday, he won 10 contests in a row, running up his pledged delegate lead while Clinton's chief strategist, Mark Penn, was still trying to figure out what was happening. (Clinton, who fired Penn, still owes him $4.5 million. I could have come up with a losing strategy for half that.)
True, Obama missed an opportunity Tuesday night, one of his two "silver bullets." Had he actually beaten Clinton in Pennsylvania, she almost certainly would have had to withdraw from the race.
But Obama has another opportunity in two weeks: If he beats her in North Carolina and Indiana on May 6, some members of her own campaign say she might have to withdraw.
Indiana appears to be a toss-up, which is why Obama and Clinton both headed there from Pennsylvania. North Carolina looks like a safe state for Obama, though some think Clinton could make up some ground if she snagged the endorsement of former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards. But enough ground to change things? I doubt it. (The John Edwards wing of the Democratic Party is pretty much limited to John Edwards these days.)
Failing a double win on May 6, Obama might have to slog on all the way to June and the last primaries and even, conceivably, to the Democratic National Convention in August.
But so what? Clinton has every right to continue. As she said in her victory speech in Philadelphia Tuesday night: "Some people counted me out and said to drop out. Well, the American people don't quit, and they deserve a president who doesn't quit."
And while she is not quitting and Obama is failing to close, she can continue to try to persuade the superdelegates, who hold the balance of power, to go with her.
It is a tough argument. The superdelegates, the ultimate party insiders, tend to worry a lot about what is best for the party, and they know that overturning the decision of the pledged delegates would probably shatter the party.
"The challenges that we face are bigger than the smallness of our politics," Obama said in his concession speech, a speech that was careful to mention both North Carolina and Indiana. "During the course of this campaign, we've all learned what my wife reminds me of all the time that I am not a perfect man. And I will not be a perfect president."
And if you don't believe that, just ask Hillary.