Even though her Pennsylvania win is arguably Hillary Clinton's biggest since New Hampshire -- especially given the gobs of cash she’s raised since Tuesday night -- the fact is that the chances of a Clinton comeback, though better now than they were Monday, are still slim. And so, though some folks are going to find my column today in the Baltimore Sun a bit premature, and maybe very presumptuous, the issue of her departure from the race will need to be addressed. A quick sample:

A year ago -- heck, even five months ago -- Mrs. Clinton's nomination was generally viewed as certain. Compounding the jarring effect of her transformation from inevitable winner into underachieving runner-up is the lost opportunity of her nomination as a potentially historic moment.

The combined effect will make Mrs. Clinton's defeat a tougher pill to swallow - for her, for her supporters and for other key elements of the Democratic coalition, especially women, who cast a majority of votes in the country and an even larger share of Democratic votes.

Had Mrs. Clinton been a long-shot candidate with a limited following who fell far short and quickly slinked away - think Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. or Sen. Christopher J. Dodd - her defeat wouldn't matter all that much.

But we're not even talking here about Al Gore managing Bill Bradley or John Kerry dealing with Howard Dean. We're talking about Hillary - former first lady, first woman to make a strong bid for a major-party nomination for president, such an iconic figure that she is known by her first name alone. And so, Team Obama will need to manage her transition from pathbreaker to runner-up with the delicate care of a watchmaker and the cool precision of a bomb squad.

The rest is here.

--Tom Schaller

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