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A graceful exit

The Baltimore Sun

As the struggle for the Democratic presidential nomination grinds on toward its likely conclusion - the selection of Sen. Barack Obama as the party's candidate - the question arises: Why has Sen. Hillary Clinton been able to keep her campaign in the headlines? The answer is that Mr. Obama will need her support and that of the millions who voted for her in the primaries as he faces Sen. John McCain in the general election campaign this fall. Mr. Obama has gone out of his way recently to be respectful of her continued candidacy.

But Mrs. Clinton has to realize the end is near. Democratic Party lawyers this week refused to endorse her push to seat party delegates from Florida and Michigan at the convention in Denver this August; Mrs. Clinton had hoped to use her primary victories in the two populous states to narrow Mr. Obama's delegate lead. The delegates' role has been in doubt because early primaries in the two states violated party rules.

The lawyers recommended Wednesday that only half the delegates from the two states be seated. That's a reasonable compromise - punishment for state party officials without disenfranchising the two states' voters - and it should be approved at tomorrow's meeting of the Democratic rules committee in Washington.

Clinton aides now say, however, that regardless of the committee's decision, the New York senator hopes to persuade the party's superdelegates to award her the nomination, based on her claimed lead in the popular vote. More alarmingly, Mrs. Clinton has hinted that she might carry her fight for the nomination to the convention floor. That would make for a long, hot summer.

Democratic superdelegates should save Mrs. Clinton from this foolishness and act decisively next week after the Tuesday primary finales in Montana and South Dakota to award Mr. Obama the nomination. Senator Clinton should stop moving the goal posts and acknowledge the inevitable. Nobody likes a sore loser, particularly one who could wreck her party's chances in November.

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