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Superdelegates shifting toward Obama

He narrowed Clinton's lead to 13, picking up four after Tuesday's primaries.

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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.

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Undecided superdelegates offer a host of reasons for waiting. Some say they want voters in every state to feel heard before weighing in. Others say a final month of hard campaigning could reveal new differences between the candidates and toughen the winner for a general election fight against Senator McCain, the presumed GOP nominee.

Some undeclared members of Congress have said the primary season has been so divisive that they fear alienating voters back home. "I have been neutral, and out of respect for my supporters, half of whom are for Senator Clinton and half of whom are for Senator Obama, I'm going to stay that way," Sen. Mary Landrieu, a Louisiana Democrat facing a tough reelection battle, told MSNBC Wednesday.

Pledged delegates – those bound by election results in their states – and superdelegates each get one vote toward the 2,025 needed for the nomination. By several reckonings, Clinton would need to win nearly 70 percent of the undecided superdelegates and nearly 70 percent of the vote in the remaining contests to overtake Obama, a very high hurdle.

Obama needs 178 more delegates for the nomination, Clinton, 329.

In a memo to superdelegates Wednesday, Obama's campaign manager, David Plouffe, argued that Obama's lead in pledged delegates and momentum with superdelegates put to rest any questions about his electability in November.

"Since the Pennsylvania primary, much of it during the challenging Rev. Wright period, we have netted 24 [superdelegates] and the Clinton campaign 17," Mr. Plouffe wrote, referring to the controversy over Obama's former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr. "At some point – we would argue that time is now – this ceases to be a theoretical exercise about how superdelegates view electability."

Obama took his quest for superdelegates directly to the Capitol late Thursday morning, striding onto the House floor in the middle of a vote and chatting up uncommitted lawmakers.

Clinton vowed Wednesday to stay in the race "until there is a nominee," and pitched her case later that day to undecided superdelegates on Capitol Hill.

"Senator Obama has not proven he can win the key swing states, has not yet proven he can win the votes of blue-collar workers, and that will be the crux of the argument we make to superdelegates and voters going forward," Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson said in a phone call with reporters.

Rep. Jane Harman (D) of California, a superdelegate for Clinton, says she is not wavering. "I think it is critically important to have a woman in a position to be president of the United States," she says. "No one has the magic number of votes yet."

Rep. Gene Taylor, a Mississippi Democrat who is uncommitted, says he sees no reason to short-circuit a race that he believes will strengthen the eventual victor. "I'm not in a big hurry," he says. "Every day they're going to be asked tough questions and every day they're going to become a better candidate or not become a better candidate."