Hillary Clinton does not lack for victories. She has had several recently.
What she lacks is a way to make her victories meaningful. What she lacks is an argument.
What is the game-changing argument that will cause the superdelegates, who will decide the Democratic nomination, to vote for her?
That she has won Ohio, Texas, Pennsylvania, Indiana, West Virginia and Kentucky in the last few weeks? OK, yeah, they know that. They saw that on TV.
That she can win key states in November? Yep, so she says.
That she leads in the popular vote? Well, that depends on how you do the math.
That she continues to win white, working-class voters? Yawn.
Hillary Clinton won a huge victory in Kentucky on Tuesday night, and you know what happens next? Nothing probably. Nothing good. Not for her, anyway. Not if the past is prologue.
Last week, Clinton won West Virginia by an incredible 41 percentage points a quadruple landslide! and since then Barack Obama has picked up 22 superdelegates and Clinton has picked up four.
And when you are in a place where your victories don't matter, then you are in a very bad place.
The party insiders look at her victories and shrug. They see a different math. They see what Obama sees: a pledged delegate victory that will not be overturned by the superdelegates.
Obama put it in a measured way Tuesday night in his speech from Des Moines. "We have returned to Iowa with a majority of delegates elected by the American people," he said, "and you have put us within reach of the Democratic nomination for president of the United States."
Clinton's victory speech was tough almost defiant when she promised to continue to campaign "by never giving up and never giving in."
But it also had the elements of concession speech. "No matter what happens, I will work as hard as I can to elect a Democratic president this fall," she said. "We will come together as a party, united by common values and common cause. And when we do, there will be no stopping us. We won't just unite our party, we will unite our country."
Even though Obama won Oregon on Tuesday night, he chose to make his victory speech in Iowa for symbolic reasons: Iowa, the very first contest of the primary campaign season, is where his victory put the first chink in Clinton's "inevitability" armor.
Gordon Fischer, a former chairman of the Iowa Democratic Party who had endorsed Obama when he was trailing in the polls last year, told me Tuesday night: "Some candidates under the harsh spotlight and intense scrutiny actually wilt, but let's face it, Obama has grown, and his coalition has grown, but his Iowa win gave him the rocket fuel he needed."
Obama, in his speech near the Iowa state capitol, was extremely gracious to Clinton (though it is easy to be gracious when you've virtually won). "The road here has been long, and that is partly because we've traveled it with one of the most formidable candidates to ever run for this office," Obama said. "No matter how this primary ends, Sen. Clinton has shattered myths and broken barriers and changed the America in which my daughters and yours will come of age."
Obama saved his criticism for John McCain. "This year's Republican primary was a contest to see which candidate could out-Bush the other, and that is the contest John McCain won," Obama said, also pointing out that McCain "arrived in Washington nearly three decades ago."
Translation: My opponent is not only as bad as George W. Bush but is really, really old to boot.
Clinton will not drop out because there is no real reason for her to. Why not go down fighting or trying to get the vice presidential nod especially if you believe you represent the aspirations of millions of women?
"I think a lot of women project their own feelings in their lives on to me," Clinton has said. "Everywhere I go, people say, 'Don't give up, don't give up, stay with this.'"
So she will stay. But, according to a Gallup daily tracking poll released Tuesday, her foundation of support is cracking: "Having previously captured nearly the maximum level of support from black voters, Obama's latest gains have come from a broad spectrum of rank-and-file Democrats. At least for now, he has expanded his position as the preferred candidate of men, young adults and highly educated Democrats, and has erased Clinton's advantages with most of her prior core constituency groups, including women, the less-well-educated and whites."
But will he inherit a party that has been ripped asunder? No, Obama says, it is all good.
"Some may see the millions upon millions of votes cast for each of us as evidence that our party is divided," he said Tuesday night, "but I see it as proof that we have never been more energized."
So let the Republicans be dull. The Democrats will battle on because it is just so gosh-darned exciting!