Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Superdelegates on sidelines for now?

The AP reports:
More than 200 Democratic Party officials pondered their collective power to tip the presidential nomination to Barack Obama or Hillary Rodham Clinton on Wednesday, and came to a near-universal consensus: sit tight for now.

With the Obama-Clinton battle apparently destined to last another two months or more, these undeclared "superdelegates" are watching nervously, but remain reluctant to dive in and potentially decide the matter. One day after Clinton's campaign-saving wins in Ohio and Texas, not a single superdelegate switched from Obama to her, or vice versa (although a handful moved to or from the undecided column, mostly to Obama's advantage).

The superdelegates — various party officials including all Democratic governors and members of Congress — are poised to decide the nomination because neither candidate has a realistic chance of winning enough "pledged" delegates in the primaries and caucuses remaining before the late-August convention. Nearly 450 superdelegates have declared their choices, breaking in Clinton's favor but not by enough to negate Obama's overall delegate lead.

He leads in delegates, 1,567-1,462, even though she maintains a 242-207 edge in superdelegates. It takes 2,025 to win the nomination.

Another 270 or so superdelegates remain undeclared, and scores of them told The Associated Press on Wednesday they intend to stay that way, at least through the Pennsylvania primary seven weeks away.[...]

"The momentum has switched, the race has turned," said Pennsylvania Democratic Party chairman and pro-Clinton superdelegate T.J. Rooney. Obama's inability to "close the deal" by winning Texas and Ohio raises questions about his electability, Rooney said, and "it's a new day" for Clinton.

Elisa Parker, vice chairwoman of the Tennessee Democratic Party and a pro-Clinton superdelegate, said: "I do think it could go to the convention. But I'm not really worried about that, because I think it could help her the longer this goes."

Dozens of undeclared superdelegates said a protracted campaign is not a problem.

"Certainly it would be nice if we did have our ticket together," said Nancy DiNardo, the party chair in Connecticut. "But it's not necessary yet. We have a few more states that still have to weigh in, and I think it still generates excitement. It's like the pennant race, or even the Super Bowl."

"I think John McCain just isn't going to get the attention any more," she said.

Numerous superdelegates said a protracted Clinton-Obama battle is a problem only if the campaign turns sharply negative. But that's a distinct possibility, according to political strategists who say Clinton's only hope of overtaking Obama is to criticize him and hope he makes a major error or falls victim to a damaging revelation.

Former Democratic National Committee Chairman Charles Manatt, who backs Clinton, said it is hard to argue for a pro-Obama rush after the Texas and Ohio results.

"She just won big victories," he said. "Who knows, it could go to Puerto Rico."

The Puerto Rico caucus is June 1.

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