Dear Jonathan,

Look I really don’t think I can file today. It’s been just another few days in the endless churn, with another three weeks to the Pennsylvania primary still to go, and meaningless gaffe spotting, and 24-hour-news-channel filling on and on and on. Mark Penn, Hillary’s senior advisor, quit, but that’s about all. The Golden Gate bridge is glimmering in the s…

Holy sh-t! Mark Penn quit. Actual news has occurred. I barely remember how to do this. Hang on I’ve got the cheat sheet. Get facts. Arrange facts. Interpret. Claim victory in culture wars. Dammit that’s the News Ltd cheat sheet. Where’s the real one?

OK, here we go. Mark Penn, the burly, disastrous, senior advisor to the Clinton campaign has quit today, days after it was revealed that he met with officials of the Colombian government to discuss selling the US-Colombia free trade deal and how to wham it through, as his candidate is stumping every broken-down rust-belt Pennsylvanian town promising them they can all be $60,000 p.a. steel workers again, once the evil free trade deals are knocked on the head.

Penn, who has been carrying on his job as a PR shrill for Burston Marsteller – the firm retained by the Kuwaiti government during the Gulf War, and whose triumph remains the rumour that Iraqi troops were hauling Kuwaiti babies out of ICU incubators during the invasion – while raking in millions to run the Clinton campaign into the ground, had met with the Colombians in that private capacity, and he seemed to hope that that Japanese wall (like a Chinese wall, but paper thin) would save him.

He toughed it out for a few days after the meeting was revealed last week, but it was a pretty arrogant, unrealistic expectation that he would survive and gosh, who would expect that from Camp Clinton. They’d got stuck into Team Obama when one of his more junior advisors had met with the Canadians and made some highly ambiguous noises about NAFTA.

Hillary had supplied her own smoking gun at that point, saying that no aide of hers who did such an etcetera, would… and so on. But it looked like they might tough it out until it became clear that the powerful Teamsters Union wouldn’t stand for it, after a few statements by their leader James Hoffa.

No, he’s not back from the dead. It’s his son. But you sure know you ain’t in Kansas, or perhaps deep in there, when the moral position is being outlined by JIMMY HOFFA.

How it will impact the campaign remains to be seen. Hillary has always played a double-game on the NAFTA issue, suggesting that the Bill Clinton years were a co-presidency, and then leaking rumours that she was fervently opposed to NAFTA. And maybe she was, but in that case it’s a measure of her influence in those years that the thing passed without a hitch, at least in the White House.

Those sorts of considerations are unlikely to run deep with Pennsylvania, or later Indiana, voters in the weeks to come. Though it would be condescending to suggest that they are voting solely on the sort of image either candidate is projecting, it would be naive to think they’re poring over the industrial reconstruction plans of either camp. By and large, Hillary is wearing the rustbelt round that pantsuit.

It’s not just the race thing, though that’s a big part of it. Before the much-delayed release of their tax and income records showed them to have earnt $100,000,000 plus over the last eight years, Hillary had basically pitched herself as a working mom, with the same sort of personal style of many of those she was speaking to – busy, multi-tasked, no bullsh-t — basically Roseanne without the multiple personality disorder. The fact that she’s as rich as, well, Roseanne, may put a crimp in that, but a lot of it’s about personal comportment, the basic feel of a candidate.

Which Obama is flubbing completely. Quite aside from the fact that he looks about 24, his efforts in traditional campaigning mode have been pretty embarrassing, from gutterballing at a bowling alley, to just about the worst sin a candidate can make, refusing food. Even his sins don’t work for him – the greatest being a heavy smoking habit he’s been trying to quit. You can’t just go out and boldly smoke in 21st century America, you may as well be spiking smack in kids’ eyeballs, and stories of him sneaking a drag make him sound like… sound like…

Well look. The question has been, a la Hillary, can a chick make it to the White House, and here’s an obsessively thin, foodophobic type with smooth skin who’s bad at sports… Jaysus. Obama is the chick. He’s Bridget frikkin Jones. Compared to him, Hills is quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Yet the bitter truth is – no matter what the Americophiles say about the irrelevance of race, melting pot etc – if Obama didn’t look like a cover model for Non-Threatening Black Men magazine, he would have been out of the primaries in January.

Hills will most likely storm Pennsylvania, but most likely it will mean only ten or so more delegates for her. And Obama will still win. And how he squares up to McCain will depend on how well McCain’s central narrative – the success of the surge – holds up. To reverse Ho Chi Minh, the election will be won in the battlefields of Baghdad, not on the streets of Chicago.

Unless Penn can dust off that incubator story again…