If Barack Obama's rout in the South Carolina primary was an earthquake, his winning the backing of the Kennedy clan was the aftershock.
The House of Clinton is looking shaky.
Just how shaky was painfully obvious in a TV sequence. To give Hillary Clinton equal time Monday, one of the cable networks switched from the jubilant finale of the Kennedy-Obama lovefest to a Clinton speech in Massachusetts.
It was like going from a wedding to a funeral. Her back to the camera, Clinton was facing a somber audience listening to her tick off things we need for energy independence. "Germany is ahead of us," she said, to absolutely no effect.
Cue the commercial to liven things up.
It is hard to overstate how dramatically the tide has shifted again in the Democratic race. The Clintons threw everything they had at Obama in South Carolina, including the kitchen sink and the garbage can, and they are worse off for it.
They didn't just lose the vote in a landslide -- they lost their reputations among many Americans. Proof that they will do anything to win marks them with a scarlet letter for a new generation.
And now the Kennedys have piled on. While they were leaning to Obama, the Clinton conduct in South Carolina pushed them into action. Most telling was the reported call from Ted Kennedy warning Bill Clinton to lower the rhetoric. But Bubba always knows best and took an even lower road after the warning, comparing Obama with Jesse Jackson. The message was clear - he's just another black guy winning the black vote.
Which is why we got that riveting scene yesterday where the torch was passed. Ted and Caroline didn't just endorse Obama. They invoked the memories of both JFK and RFK in an orgy of emotion that was great theater and political dynamite.
From the shy genuineness of the dead President's daughter to the arthritic roaring of the old lion, the Kennedys anointed the rookie senator from Illinois as the new head of the family. The pomp was part church service, part Mafia induction.
All that remained was for Obama to work his magical gift with words, and he didn't disappoint. He began patiently, telling a deliberate story about his father's journey from Africa with Kennedy financial help, about how he grew up hearing the stories of the Kennedy legend.
Of course, many of those stories are myths, and the sainted brothers weren't always saints. No matter. Obama's ability to link the legend to his campaign and to shift his audience into overdrive with an emotional, rapid-fire call to change was a marvel to watch.
There's nothing like it in politics today. You have to go back to the 1960s to see that kind of joyful exuberance. Then it was guys named Kennedy leading the charge.
Camelot has come a long way, baby.