Even Mitt Romney knew.
The man who would say anything (see "double Guantanamo") realized it was best to say no more. His continued presence, he realized, would do nothing but hinder the transition of opponent John McCain into the Republican presidential nomination.
And now And now Hillary Clinton stands confronted with a similar predicament: How does she face admitting that the campaign to which she has dedicated her past year, the campaign that she was probably told she would easily win, is now merely a faded pipe dream?
Romney, for all the horrors born of his campaign, handled the decision with grace. John Edwards also chose to bow out and let his issues live on - which they have - rather than play the role of kingmaker at the Democratic National Convention.
Clinton cannot win the nomination through pledged delegates - the ones selected by the people - and would need a radical shift in support among unpledged delegates, coinciding with the seating of delegates from the unsanctioned primaries in Michigan and Florida, in order to win. To be blunt, she can only win if the process were to somehow overturn the will of the people.
Certainly supporters and her own feelings will tell her she can go on after her wins in Ohio and Texas. And she has every right to go on if she desires and thinks it best. But her internal drive and persistent campaigning will undeniably cloud her reasoning in this decision, especially following the euphoria of acceptance she experienced in Texas and Ohio last week.
It's hard not to consider the thought process going through her mind. In any other year, Clinton would almost certainly have been the nominee. She had the name recognition, the political machine and an increased Clinton nostalgia to go against the Bush fatigue.
But something happened along the way she hadn't prepared for, something that shattered her cloak of invincibility: a fresh face emerged, offering not only divergence from the current administration but also a step forward from the unproductive squabbling and fear-mongering of the past.
Blindsided, Clinton never offered a compelling rationale for her candidacy - "I'm in to win," she said at the start - and often found herself unable to recognize the immediate concerns of the people. Her continued inability to offer coherent positions on pressing issues such as NAFTA or Iraq has put her out of touch with voters. Her only remaining line of attack has been, well, attack, as seen by her baseless diatribes on who is best equipped to take an early morning phone call to deal with troubles in the world. (Though the answer, of course, is John McCain - older people tend to get up earliest).
Despite the faulty grounding from which her campaign rose, Clinton garnered significant support and has kept the race close enough to argue that she can continue.
But whom would she be helping? Certainly not herself or her husband, both of whose legacies are damaged by the intellectually hollow and malignantly divisive slander they have dished out like candy as a result of her eroding support. Certainly not her party, which stands to be hammered by internal strife should she seek to wrestle away the will of the popular vote.
Instead, Clinton should seek solace in the fact that, while she may not be destined to lead this country, she can continue to lead on the issues she cares about. Edwards, on exiting, ensured that his opponents would make combating poverty a renewed priority in their campaigns. Clinton could do the same. Her signature issue has clearly become health care, and as a senator, she could lead the push to ensure that all Americans, regardless of wealth, receive access to affordable coverage.
Or she could stay in the race, tarnishing her own legacy and damaging the prospects of Barack Obama, the candidate most likely toenact the changes she claims to want.
Behind her blind ambition, she must know which path to choose.
© 2008 The Villanovan via U-WIRE