Tuesday's primaries in North Carolina and Indiana were only the latest in a string of supposedly climactic contests that would settle the Democratic presidential nomination. The evening didn't quite live up to its billing, but for frontrunner Barack Obama the results were almost as good. He won big in North Carolina. Hillary Clinton appears to have won Indiana, but by a much narrower margin than expected.
More to the point, Obama will surely extend his significant lead in pledged delegates. Clinton -- once the prohibitive favorite -- almost surely cannot overturn that lead. And she will be hard-pressed to convince unelected superdelegates why they should do for her what she cannot.
Obama knows this. And in his speech in Raleigh, N.C., he sought to begin the process of uniting his party -- and, he clearly hopes, the nation -- behind him. "I love this country too much," he said, "to see this country distracted and divided at this point in its history."
In Indianapolis, Clinton vowed to fight on "full speed on to the White House" On cable news channels, her surrogates sketched out ever more farfetched scenarios by which she could prevail. But time is running short, as is the list of states that have yet to vote. The Democratic Party doesn't have a nominee yet, but the end of the fight is much closer after North Carolina and Indiana.