When will the presidential picture become more clear?

By the end of the day the winner of the race for the Democratic presidential nomination will be clearer as Indiana and North Carolina head to the polls today. Oh if that were so. Chances are the water will be as muddy in the morning as it is today with no clear winner, just an adjustment in the delegate count.

Rarely do states voting so late have a say in who will be the nominee of either party. Believe it or not there are nine states waiting — with 345 delegates — to crown Sen. John McCain the Republican nominee. The last Republican primary won't be held until July 12 when Nebraska takes a vote that's meaningless. Democrats have seven states and Puerto Rico remaining, including today's primaries, with 492 delegates at stake.

This process has been tiring but useful. We are seeing candidates operate in the pressure cooker of American politics where millions of dollars are spent daily trying to woo voters and make a case for their nomination. More Americans are taking an interest in the presidential campaigns, and just when we thought there wasn't another thing to know about either Democratic candidate, up jumps a Rev. Jeremiah Wright or a Bosnian ambush.

If today's Democratic vote goes as expected, Sen. Barack Obama will continue to lead Sen. Hillary Clinton in the delegate count. The super-delegate count though is different, with Clinton leading with the party faithful. Each and every state and territory is important to the Democratic candidates. It's that close.

Sen. McCain has been able to skate a bit since he wrapped up the nomination in early March with wins in Ohio, Texas, Rhode Island and Vermont. It wasn't that long ago, this time last year, that McCain's campaign was on the skids. Money was hard to raise and he cutback on staff. Now he's the presumptive nominee who has bested the likes of Mike Huckabee (the last to drop out), Rudy Giuliani (his first and last stand strategy in Florida failed), Mitt Romney (left the race in February) and Ron Paul (some say he's yet to drop out).

So hold on to the handlebars; there's a lot of jockeying yet to do. While Republicans will hold a genteel convention the first week in September in Minneapolis, there should be a lot to talk about the Democratic nominee. The Democrats will decide in 111 days, the last week in August, who their standard-bearer will be. Of course the super delegates could pow wow before then and probably will, but it's our guess neither candidate will give up until one of them, maybe both, stand on the stage in Denver with their hands raised in unison girding for the coming battle.

— Charles E. Richardson/for the Editorial Board