PHILADELPHIA – Sen. Hillary Clinton jolted reporters to attention on Tuesday, walking into a news conference with a solemn expression and declaring that “this has been fool1.jpga very hard fought race.”

“We clearly need to do something, so that our party and our people can make the right decision. So I have a proposal,” she said to the crowd of reporters and photographers, several of whom admitted later they thought perhaps the New York senator was about to drop out of the close contest for the Democratic presidential nomination.

“Today, I am challenging Sen. (Barack) Obama to a bowl-off, a bowling night right here in Pennsylvania,” Clinton said, as her audience visibly relaxed and broke into laughter. “Winner takes all.”

Obama, who holds a slim lead over Clinton in the race for party delegates, went bowling during a campaign stop in Altoona, Pennsylvania, on Saturday. On-the-scene reports said on his first attempt the Illinois senator threw a gutter ball.

“It’s time for his campaign to get out of the gutter and allow the pins to be counted,” Clinton said. “When this game is over, the American people will know when that phone rings at 3 a.m., they have a president who’s ready to bowl on Day One.