Salena Zito

Clinton is, by her very nature, a “Clinton” -- and Clintons don’t get forced out of anything. History and behavior patterns prove that. So even a scenario of having the Democrats’ wise men or leagues of superdelegates knock on her door to force her out might not happen -- at least not publicly.

If Clinton decides to quit, it will be on a high note, after a win in West Virginia or Kentucky, with Bill and Chelsea at her side and a pledge to help elect the next president, Barack Obama. Not forced, kicking and screaming, but graciously.

Former Democratic National Committee executive director Mark Siegel concurs: “The process to the nomination will come probably to a conclusion, if not in West Virginia, then in Kentucky or Oregon, then certainly no later than the third of June.

“The brutality of the nominating fight will make the reconciliation that much more powerful,” says Siegel, who holds a doctorate in delegate math.

He says Democrats have weathered the roughest period of the campaign and are about to shift into general-election campaign mode: “The primary season was bitter, like a lemon. The summer and the convention will be sweet, like lemonade.”

Another Democrat strategist not working on either campaign privately disputes that sugary assumption. Clinton “still has the credentials meeting on May 31 that could force the seating of Michigan and Florida” delegations, this strategist says.

Clinton can make a case to stay in the race until the convention.

But, like Gerald Ford on that hot summer night in 1980, she’s not likely to consider a conjoined ticket.

Salena Zito

Salena Zito is a political analyst, reporter and columnist.