When Hillary Rodham Clinton made a rare stop in the Senate last week, she spoke from a lonely outpost at the end of the Armed Services Committee dais, eight empty chairs emphasizing the gulf between her and real Senate power at the chairman's spot.
It was illustrative of the inflexible senatorial math that will fix Mrs. Clinton's place in Congress should the Democratic nominating fight play out on its present course. While she has received millions of votes, stirred thousands of Americans at rallies, made hundreds of appearances and is just scores of delegates short of her goal, defeat would still return her to the Senate as No. 36 out of 49 Democrats.
But the seniority arithmetic is only the beginning. There is also the personal challenge of returning to a club where more Democratic members, some quite pointedly, favored Senator Barack Obama and spurned her. For Mrs. Clinton, who has spent years cultivating friendships and raising money for colleagues, that had to hurt. Though the Senate is a place where rival lawmakers daily work side-by-side, this family feud was more public and pronounced than usual.