Salena Zito

In the beginning, Mitt Romney was labeled a flip-flopper, John McCain was written off and Mike Huckabee was just the Baptist minister from Bill Clinton’s hometown.

Romney’s defeat in California on Super Duper Tuesday made it nearly mathematically impossible for him to catch McCain. He dropped out on Thursday -- after staying in just long enough to severely cripple Huckabee's chances. Now the time has come for McCain to aggressively reach out to the conservative base of the party.

“If McCain uses this time well -- and he desperately needs to do so -- then he can make progress in reuniting the party, raising money and positioning himself for the fall campaign,” said Larry Sabato, political science professor at the University of Virginia. “But this will be a difficult race under tough conditions for any Republican.”

In January 2007 Clinton and McCain were the presumptive, "inevitable" candidates for their parties’ nominations. They both had healthy amounts of cash, a surplus of expert staffers and clear paths to their nominations. Along the way, Clinton has had to fight off Obama’s insurgent candidacy and McCain has had to fight his way back to the top after being declared politically dead.

Now, one year after they started the road trips they hoped would lead them to the White House, the future is much less clear for her than for McCain.

Salena Zito

Salena Zito is a political analyst, reporter and columnist.