That rotten smell emanating from American politics is produced by the sinking ship of the Clinton campaign. The once vaunted political machinery operated by Hillary and Bill, as well as their swarming cadre of loyal surrogates, has not found the American public to be as embracing as predicted. The primary season, in effect, is already lost for Hillary. While she once predicted an unchecked march to the Democratic nomination, even her most delusional surrogates are beginning to run out of feasible scenarios in which they can successfully wrest the contest away from Barack Obama.

The calls for Clinton to resign grow from whispers to shouts as quickly as her superdelegate lead evaporates. An emerging parade of senators, representatives and governors have thrown their support behind Obama. This casts serious doubts on the once widely held view that the insurgent coalition of Obama supporters – young professionals, minorities and so-called “latte liberals” – would soon be overturned by the institutional heads of the Democratic Party. Unless any incriminating allegations arise against Obama over the next months, even the most staunch skeptic will be hard-pressed to snatch the nomination from the one man who has attracted more votes, money and enthusiasm than any political candidate running for office this term.

Clinton surely can read the writing on the wall. Unless, of course, she’s operating in the sort of naïve circumstances that prevent her sensible staff from hinting she drop out. Why would she continue to run at the expense of a united and civilly contested Democratic ticket? Because she started this campaign with her victory forecast by all. And because her husband stood on the sidelines and watched as George W. Bush spent eight years in the Oval Office, dismantling one by one the successes of the Clinton administration. Hillary went to sleep each night in 2007 knowing two things: The sun would rise each morning, and she still enjoyed smooth sailing towards the prize.

Somewhere along the way, Obama stepped in and stole the frontrunner status. It was highway robbery – a legitimate shot at the White House surely didn’t belong to an untested junior senator who happened into history as a trailblazing black man. However, the man has shown prodigious political ability, from running circles around Hillary as a campaign fundraiser to drawing upwards of 25,000 spellbound followers to his speeches. His response to the Jeremiah Wright controversy brought the political news mill to a standstill. His speech will go down as one of the most seminal of this generation as well of Obama’s career. It represented the first acid test of Obama’s presidential run. Clinton and Sen. John McCain rushed to pronounce the flap as indicative of Obama’s inability to stand and identify with America’s white voters. With one particularly understated message, Obama largely swept away the furor. Any lingering doubts might only have caused temporary damage.

So, with the last round of primaries appearing bleaker and bleaker for Hillary – the latest polls already register a surge for Obama in Pennsylvania, where Clinton held a 20-point lead only two weeks ago – the months of April and May should eventually give way to Obama’s nomination. Do not heed Clinton’s daily and red-faced declaration to trample on all the way to the convention in August. John Edwards, Bill Richardson and Mike Huckabee all stated their refusals to drop out… and then dropped out. As the volume of Clinton’s voice grows, look for her chances to slip further.

In the end, the Clintons will have to admit defeat, as well as the cold truth: Not that many Americans want a Clinton back in the White House. Cry not for them. Hillary will enjoy even greater responsibility and power in the Senate after all this is over, and Bill will glad-face his way into a lush post as ambassador to some nation… or perhaps the commissioner of Major League Baseball. The Clintons, like the rest of the world, never saw what was coming: the largest wave of political excitement since Reagan and JFK. Win or lose this fall, Obama, at the age of 46, has thrust himself into the international spotlight. He’ll carry the banner for the Democratic Party for the next thirty years, with the name “Obama” replacing “Clinton” as the top-selling brand of blue politics. Maybe the best John McCain could do is make way for The Man.