Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's must-win states of Ohio and Texas are no cakewalk for her, largely because independents and crossover Republicans are welcome to vote in their Democratic primaries.
The political calendar of late winter has been less than kind to the embattled presidential contender, who once figured that a big day in early February would affirm her march to the presidential nomination and the rest would be icing.
Instead, it's been slippery ice at every turn, and Ohio and Texas contests on March 4 matter greatly, crucial tests in her big-state fallback strategy.
Winning the delegates wasn't enough. Now the Democrats running for president must keep them from straying. The party's arcane system of caucuses and conventions has both campaigns working to keep delegates they had already claimed in Nevada, Iowa, Kansas and elsewhere.
At stake: 172 delegates in nine states, enough to shift the balance of the entire race. The Associated Press has awarded 109 of those delegates to Sen. Barack Obama, who has fared well in caucus states. The rest went to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.
The Democratic superdelegates are starting to follow the voters — straight to Barack Obama.
In just the past two weeks, more than two dozen of them have climbed aboard his presidential campaign, according to a survey by The Associated Press. At the same time, Hillary Rodham Clinton's are beginning to jump ship, abandoning her for Obama or deciding they now are undecided.
The result: He's narrowing her once-commanding lead among these "superdelegates," the Democratic office holders and party officials who automatically attend the national convention and can vote for whomever they choose.
As Obama has reeled off 11 straight primary victories, some of the superdelegates are having second — or third — thoughts about their public commitments.
In a vapid attempt either to rescue sagging circulations or pander to Hillary Rodham Clinton or merely expose to the world how little they know about Hispanics, major U.S. newspapers have trumpeted a brown-vs.-black rift that has never really existed.
Supposedly, Latinos despise blacks, and for that reason are flocking to Clinton.
Hillary Rodham Clinton has told Providence Mayor David Cicilline, her former state campaign chair, that he is barred from attending her Rhode Island appearance Sunday for fear that his presence would cause disruptive protests by the firefighters union.
Cicilline said he will stay away on Sunday, but this may cause him to question his support for the New York senator, who he has stumped for locally and in New Hampshire during that state's presidential primary.
Speculation is mounting that Hillary Rodham Clinton may be ready to pull the plug on her faltering Presidential campaign.
Sources within the beleaguered campaign say fund raising has dried up and mounting debts may force a cutback in ads, direct mail and staff.
At Thursday night's debate in Austin, Texas, Clinton appeared at times resigned to the fact that her campaign is coming to an end. Her closing sounded to some more like a valedictory address than the words of a candidate who fights to the end.
One million dollars a day.
As Democratic Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton rushed from presidential contest to contest in January, that was how quickly they burned through their money.
On the Republican side, Sen. John McCain and Mitt Romney were spending a third as much. To see the difference, all a voter in Iowa or New Hampshire or South Carolina had to do was turn on the television.
Hillary Clinton, the front-runner no more, sought to bury Barack Obama, but also to praise him in their latest campaign debate and revive her own White House hopes in the process.
"No matter what happens in this contest — and I am honored, I am honored to be here with Barack Obama," she said at the conclusion of the 90-minute forum. "Whatever happens, we're going to be fine."
Ah, what fools we were to hope that maybe, this time, it wouldn't get nasty.
In little more than eight months, we'll choose our next president, a person who will have to deal with a weak economy, a no-win war in Iraq, a widening gap between rich and poor, a politically divided nation where almost one-sixth of the population has no health insurance, a world that no longer believes the United States wants above all to do the right thing.
While we ponder, embassies burn and new crises erupt every day.
There may be more good news awaiting Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois when the results -- influenced by a large Hispanic vote -- are announced following the March 4 Texas Democratic primary.
Texas can be a whole different enchilada than California when it comes to Hispanic political and social thinking. It can be as different in the Lone Star State as the red salsa versus the green salsa sitting on the table in an authentic Mexican eatery.