One hesitates to predict anything in a race this mercurial. But I think it’s Obama’s to lose at this point.

Hillary’s pitch was always "experience" and (left unstated) inevitability. It was never the experience that made her inevitable, though. It was something more like Dem voters’ loss aversion. She has always been the Establishment Dem — the known quantity. She didn’t inspire people, but she was a safe pick, a model voters understand. She could get to 51%. In a sense, Edwards is in the same position, in the same familiar battle, just promising to fight harder.

Obama was always a gamble. Despite his missteps, there was always that faint hint of transcendence. The possibility of greatness, but also the possibility of horrible, cynicism-enforcing failure. The risk of a broken heart.

After tonight, though, the Obama phenomenon is real. He really did attract tons of new young voters. He really did sway tons of Independents and Republicans. It really does feel like a movement. A black candidate won big in a 95 percent white state. Something genuinely new seems to be happening.

I can’t see how you put that genie back in the bottle.

I’ve always understood how a Dem voter could cling to Hillary. And I’ve always understood how a Dem voter could leave Hillary and take a chance on Obama. What I can’t imagine, especially after tonight, is a Dem voter leaving Obama’s camp and going back to Hillary. What would motivate that? Once you’ve gotten a taste of history unfolding, of real excitement, you’re likely addicted.

From where I’m sitting, there’s nowhere to go but up for Obama.

Video of his victory speech below the fold: