Paul Greenberg

"Everyone keeps declaring it over, and she keeps winning." - Terry McAuliffe, Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman, after her landslide victory in Kentucky's presidential primary

By now the media's establishment has all but given the Democratic presidential nomination to Barack Obama - many times over. Note this lede on Wednesday's front page of the New York Times after the (very) junior senator from Illinois scored a solid victory in Oregon:

"Sen. Barack Obama took a big step toward becoming the Democratic presidential nominee on Tuesday, amassing enough additional delegates to claim an all but insurmountable advantage in his race against Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton."

Sen. Cinton's blowout in Kentucky, where she outpolled her rival 66 to 30 percent, was treated as an afterthought. But not by the senator herself, who vowed to fight on till the nomination was decided - not on the front page of the New York Times, but by the voters. She acts as if this were an electoral, not an editorial, decision. How old-fashioned.

Agree or disagree with Hillary Clinton, and Lord knows I've done both over the years as she's undergone all those changes of name and personas, but this much has always been clear: The lady fights. And in a free country has every right to - till the final bell rings. Or afterward.

Politics ain't beanbag, as the fictive but astute Mister Dooley pointed out long ago. Sometimes it's a fight even after the finish. See Bush v. Gore, 2000.

Even if the lady loses this fight, it won't have been in vain. For one thing, she's begun the overdue job of vetting Barack Obama, who until recently remained the unexamined candidate. Thanks in large part to Hillary Clinton's relentless battering, the chinks in his now tarnished armor have widened into gaping holes.

She's not only softened him up for John McCain, she's wiped out the aura of invincibility that used to accompany him everywhere. The once untouchable candidate now has been not only touched but hit hard, and not just above the belt. Who now speaks of Obamamania?

The cheering throng is still there, but the magic isn't, at least not beyond the well-organized campaign rally.

Barack Obama is no longer Mister Beautiful but just the candidate who's almost got this thing sewed up but can't quite close the deal. After all, how long could he be expected to repeat that unchanging line about Change before it became the same old thing? Familiarity breeds, well, familiarity. The novelty has worn away.

Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.