Yes, Hillary made some mistakes; and Bill sometimes misspoke. But where Obama did the same, with a few days' exception, he was given a pass. His people could trash her and her supporters with impunity; if she attempted to draw attention to his flaws and flawed supporters, she was the one at fault. Despite all this, Hillary remained - though the media haven't shared this - the stronger candidate against Obama with a stronger chance of winning more crucial electoral college votes. She beat him marginally on the popular vote when Michigan is included, or came within 0.1% of him without it. She won South Dakota last night, which polls said would go to Obama. So, even though the bizarre weighting of the Democratic primaries and caucuses meant she lost, she was hardly the sure-fire loser that our media would have us believe.
Nevertheless, Obama is clearly now the candidate, and it is vital that Hillary does all she can to bring her supporters behind him, particularly in crucial swing states. He has shown a graciousness of late that had hitherto eluded him, which is a good sign. And he is clearly a much stronger candidate than either the woeful John Kerry in 2004 or Al Gore in 2000.
But both Obama and McCain now face some real testing on issues of the economy and international policy, with McCain weaker on the former and Obama on the latter. Rhetorical flourish will get Obama far but he will need to become stronger in longer TV interviews and dealing in details; he will need to show a ruthlessness about his team and 'advisers' over the coming months that has previously been lacking. The fact that far more of his support has come from liberal caucuses in the Democrat contest should not deceive him into imagining that such positions will propel him to victory in the autumn, not least in those same states.
Obama will need to appeal to the centre-ground now - and that will require a change of tune and a clearer understanding of the issues that matter to middle America. Obama may be (just) the favourite now; but he has had an extraordinarily fair wind behind him up to this point. His challenge now is to anticipate the next phase of the campaign - and the changes needed by him to win it - with the same skill that he used to appeal to liberals to win the Democratic nomination. I hope he succeeds in doing so.