Hundreds of Superdelegates Remain Undecided
Hillary Clinton says the tide has turned now that she beat Barack Obama in Pennsylvania's Democratic presidential primary. But the race is still likely to be decided by superdelegates — the nearly 800 Democratic officials who can vote as they please at the party's nominating convention in August.
Superdelegates include all the Democrats in Congress, and they have mixed feelings about their roles as king- or queen-makers.
When people started talking about superdelegates just a few months ago, it was assumed that Clinton was the candidate most able to pick up endorsements from these party insiders. For a while, that was true. But her lead over Obama in superdelegates has shrunk dramatically, from about a hundred to about two dozen.
And despite Clinton's big win in Pennsylvania, she has so far failed to pick up any more superdelegates from that state.
About 300 superdelegates have yet to declare their support for either Democratic candidate. They will most certainly be under increasing pressure to do so, since their votes, in the end, will likely settle the race.
House Democrat Bob Brady's district in Philadelphia chose Obama over Clinton by a 2-1 margin. He would not say Wednesday which of the two candidates he'll vote for as a superdelegate.
"They know who I am; they know where I'm at. ... I talk to them all the time. ... I told them to keep it clean, you know, have a good election, try not to throw too much sparring with each other, and just talk about the issues, and they said they both would try to do that," Brady said.
Brady did allow that his district's preference for Obama would have what he called "a major influence" on his vote as a superdelegate. It's just a question of "maybe when," he said.
That "when" for Tennessee House Democrat John Tanner came Wednesday. Two-and-a-half months after both his state and district chose Clinton, Tanner announced that he had as well as a superdelegate.
"There's no particular significance to it other than ... she asked me, I talked to her this morning, and I said 'Yes, I was glad to endorse you. I'm going to vote for you when the time comes, whether it's June or August, if I have the chance, so I'll be glad to," he said.
Oklahoma's Democratic Gov. Brad Henry reached the opposite conclusion. Even though Clinton easily won that state's primary, Henry announced Wednesday that he is endorsing Obama.
"I thought about it, and I felt that it was important for me to come out now," Henry said. "I've been a quiet supporter of Barack Obama. I voted for him in our primary on Feb. 5, and I feel like it's important that superdelegates, whomever they support, go ahead and begin to announce their position and their endorsement of those they support so we can begin to resolve this much quicker."
Still, some superdelegates prefer being holdouts. Oregon House Democrat David Wu, whose state holds its primary May 20, says he'd just as soon see Clinton and Obama keep battling for votes, including his.
"I will decide at a reasonable time," Wu said. "I have very little intention of stretching it out till the convention, but I just have not had a reason to declare up till now."
Obama supporters argue that their candidate has won so many more states and pledged delegates than Clinton that superdelegates should close ranks behind him so he can focus on beating the presumptive Republican nominee, John McCain. That fails to sway California House Democrat Diane Watson, who backs Clinton.
"I'm going to stay with her all the way, for the long run" Watson said. "Should the delegation or should the decision get all the way to the conference in August, then whoever comes out of that I will support as rigorously as I have supported Hillary."
Missouri House Democrat Emanuel Cleaver also backs Clinton, even though Obama won his state and his Kansas City district. Caught between conflicting loyalties, Cleaver says he is not happy at all about being a superdelegate.
"We have a process that appears to be about as stupid as human beings could put in place," Cleaver said.
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