My mantra, Nobody Knows Anything, stands out conspicuously as my wisest utterance this entire extended season of national decision. Although I have repeatedly sprinkled this caveat throughout my extensive writings on Campaign 2008, I am sure that I have not said it enough. Nobody Knows Anything--and that goes double for me.

Having said that, we are in the midst of another "Hillary is finished" frenzy, but I am not at all convinced that her opponent's recent overwhelming victory in the Palmetto State and/or the endorsement of Liberal Lion, Ted Kennedy, seals the deal for the man from Illinois.

Not that I am not in awe of Barack Obama. I am.

Although Hillary is surprisingly adept and polished as a candidate for president (she is much, much better than I thought she would be), Obama is a once-in-a-generation wonder. He is the charismatic new kid in town about whom we know almost nothing--but on whom we are anxious to project our most sanguine hopes for ourselves, our nation, and our future. He is electric. He is on fire. He is in "the zone" of maximized self-actualization.

In many ways, however, Barack Obama is playing a desperate (and undoubtedly frustrating) game of "beat the clock." He must take control of this race by next Tuesday. Surely, if this nomination process had unraveled week by week, one primary at a time, over a three-month period, the incredibly attractive and energetic Obama would have overcome the Clintons, who seem to be tired, cranky, and taking on water. But in one week, Democrats in twenty-five states and voting districts will choose a candidate. This may prove to be a contest in which organization and two decades of planning, cajoling, and social networking overcomes youthful enthusiasm and raw talent. We will soon see.

If not now for Obama, when? How long will this sensational ride atop the fickled American political culture last? No one can say. He is young. One might think, if he comes up short this time, there will be other subsequent chances for this developing phenom to ascend the greasy pole and claim his due. But political life is unpredictable. There is a saying in cattle country about "striking while the iron is hot."

Oftentimes fate turns on a dime. It seems unlikely that a more propitious moment awaits Mr. Barack Obama. Popularity is fleeting and seldom moves consistently forward and upward. Tomorrow is a mystery. Now is the time for Obama. Luck be a Lady Tonight.

The now is the frustration, however. He is so close he can taste it. He made the right decision to make his move for the oval office when he did. But Obama is not quite there--and the clock is ticking. He had a chance to stampede Hillary Clinton after Iowa--but, somehow, and no one yet has come up with a satisfying answer of just how, it did not quite come together in New Hamshire.

He was supposed to win Nevada--but, somehow, he came up a bit short there as well. He got the unions (a huge coup)--but he still could not quite deliver on game day. He won huge in South Carolina--but there is a lingering worry that he might have gotten "rope-a-doped" in that round. Even as the mainstream media trumpets his successes, cynical pundits warn that he has fallen into a trap of racial politics set by his wily opponents.

And the speed of the game is increasing exponentially. He is moving fast. To shore up the Latino vote in the West (and avoid Nevada writ large), he is promoting his record of favoring drivers licenses for illegal aliens. All the polls say this is long-term poison--but the long term does not matter if one dies a political death in the now. You cannot save your ace for Game Seven, if you are the verge of elimination in Game Six. Obama is pulling out all the stops. Super Tuesday, February 5, is huge; is it bigger than his grassroots movement? No one knows. He has the money. He now has the endorsements. He is better positioned than any other previous insurgent candidate. But does he have the poise, experience, and supporting cast to pull this rabbit out of the hat when the game is on the line?

We will know soon.

A thought (on the relevance of the Kennedy imprimatur):

I will be very surprised if any Latinos on the West Coast give one solitary damn about Ted Kennedy--but who knows?

One Final Thought on the endorsements:
I am convinced that they mean very little in terms of votes (no reasonable person would change his mind because Ted Kennedy told him to), but they are an important barometer of the race. More and more heavyweight Democrats (no insult intended) see Team Clinton as vulnerable; they are taking the opportunity to kick the Clintons in the teeth and curry favor with the likely winner. This trend must be part of the calculus. Most of these folks are canny political operators.