WASHINGTON -- Reeling from another crippling loss, Hillary Clinton is pleading with Democrats to pick her over galloping foe Barack Obama, but her message is being repeatedly and comprehensively rejected.
After the Super Tuesday nominating contest two weeks ago, the two senators, both tilting at history by hoping to become the first woman or African American president, appeared to be in locked step.
But Obama's handy win in Wisconsin's primary Tuesday was his ninth straight win in a nominating contest, and leaves Clinton banking on must-win victories in her latest firewall -- in Ohio and Texas on March 4.
Two one-on-one debates with Obama, one this week, one next, the forum in which the former first lady shines the brightest, now loom as perhaps her last chance to stop her rival marching towards the Democratic nomination.
Clamping a brave face on another devastating loss, in a rally in Ohio -- which shares Wisconsin's blue collar, economically depressed characteristics -- Clinton framed a stark choice for her party.
"This election is not about me, or my opponent. It's about you ... your lives, your dreams, your future," she said, reeling off a litany of those with two jobs and no healthcare, one paycheck away from losing their homes.
"They need a president ready on day one to be commander in chief. Ready to manage our economy. And ready to beat the Republicans this November.
"I will be that president."
"Both Senator Obama and I would make history. But only one of us is ready on day one to be commander in chief, ready to manage our economy, and ready to defeat the Republicans."
Clinton's remarks, billed by her campaign as a preview of a longer speech she was due to give on Wednesday, appeared to hike the negative theme of her attacks against Obama.
Now that the 46-year-old, in his first term in the Senate, appears as a possible party nominee, her aides will be hoping that voters take a sharp look at his credentials and relative inexperience.
But worryingly for Clinton, Obama was pulling to a double digit victory in Wisconsin, a state which has few African American voters, his key power base, but is packed with her core constituency -- low wage blue collar voters.
As in a clutch of Washington-area primaries last week, Obama appeared to be eating deep into her power base, while she made little impact on his legions of young, independent and first-time voters.
According to Fox News, exit polls showed Clinton won only one age group -- voters of 60-years-old or more -- and he even bested her among voters who earn $50,000 or less.
Obama's victory on Tuesday and his cresting momentum was expected to further extend his lead in delegates to the Democratic nominating convention in Denver in August, which will crown the party nominee.
That means that narrow wins for Clinton in Ohio and Texas would not be enough for her to make up for his current lead in pledged delegates -- those who are honor bound to vote for him at the convention.
Late Tuesday, Obama had amassed 1155 pledged delegates, and Clinton had totaled 1013, according to independent website Real Clear Politics.
The former first lady is relying on super delegates -- party luminaries who can vote how they like at the convention to boost her total.
But even if those "super delegates" are taken into account, Clinton still trails by 1252 to 1323, with 2,025 total delegates required for the nomination.
Latest opinion polls show that in Ohio, Clinton has a clear lead of at least 15 percent. In Texas though, the race is much closer, with Obama closing to within two points in a CNN poll published on Tuesday.
The campaign will be concerned that the former first lady's poll leads have in recent weeks tumbled, whenever Obama's momentum has come into play and he has been able to spend time in the state.