Superdelegates shifting toward Obama
He narrowed Clinton's lead to 13, picking up four after Tuesday's primaries.
They are the only yardstick by which Barack Obama still trails Hillary Rodham Clinton: the 796 party insiders and elected officials, known as superdelegates, who are free to back either candidate in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination.Skip to next paragraph
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But if the trend of the past few days continues, Senator Obama will soon overtake Senator Clinton on this final frontier, a tipping point that could encourage a cascade of endorsements from holdouts and all but seal the nomination for the Illinois senator. Even so, some superdelegates say they are content to wait out the remaining six contests before placing their bets.
"It's another data point in a long journey," he says of the primaries Tuesday, when Obama routed Clinton in North Carolina and narrowly lost in Indiana despite one of his campaign's most difficult stretches.
The superdelegate count has come into sharp focus since Tuesday because of a mathematical milestone: the number of undeclared superdelegates – 265 – now exceeds the 217 pledged delegates up for grabs in the remaining contests.
As recently as mid-January, Clinton, with her family's deep roots in the Democratic establishment, led Obama by nearly 100 superdelegates. By Thursday morning, Obama had narrowed her lead to 13, having amassed 259 superdelegates, to Clinton's 272, according to an Associated Press tally.
Obama picked up four new superdelegates after primaries Tuesday that denied Clinton the "game changer" she had hoped would salvage her candidacy. (Clinton picked up one, Rep. Heath Shuler (D) of North Carolina, who followed through on a pledge to back the candidate who won his district.) Several new Obama backers say it is time for the Democratic Party to unite and prepare for the general election. One, Jennifer McClellan, a former Clinton superdelegate, switched allegiances after Tuesday's contests.
"Given what happened last night, it is very unlikely we will have a different result [in later contests] and it's time to come together as a party, move forward, and prepare for victory against John McCain in November," Ms. McClellan, a state lawmaker in Virginia, told reporters in a phone call Wednesday.
At least one prominent Clinton superdelegate said the primaries Tuesday raised new doubts about her candidacy.
"I want to talk to Senator Clinton. I'd like to know what her strategy is," says Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) of California. "She's my friend and I'm loyal. On the other hand, I don't want to rend the party asunder and so I think in this one the key is really in the strategy and whether the strategy is workable."
Several Clinton superdelegates say they feel comfortable sticking with her until the last contests in June because of assurances from her aides that she would not let the nomination fight go all the way to the national convention in August.