Friday, March 14, 2008

"Obama Cuts Into Clinton's Delegate Lead Among Elected Officials"

March 14 (Bloomberg) -- Barack Obama has pulled almost even with Hillary Clinton in endorsements from top elected officials and has cut into her lead among the other superdelegates she's relying on to win the Democratic presidential nomination.
Among the 313 of 796 superdelegates who are members of Congress or governors, Clinton has commitments from 103 and Obama is backed by 96, according to lists supplied by the campaigns. Fifty-three of Obama's endorsements have come since he won the Jan. 3 Iowa caucuses, compared with 12 who have aligned with Clinton since then.

``That's not glacial, that is a remarkable momentum,'' Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri, a superdelegate and Obama supporter, said in an interview. ``I don't think there is anything that will slow that down.''

Democratic elected officials have the most at stake in the nomination because the candidate at the top of the ticket in November will have an impact on state and local races.

In the overall race for superdelegates -- elected and party officials who automatically receive votes at the Democratic National Convention that will choose the nominee -- Clinton leads Obama in commitments by 249 to 212, according to an Associated Press tally.

The trend, though, is running against the New York senator. Since March 5, the day after she won primaries in Texas, Ohio, Rhode Island and Obama took Vermont, the Illinois senator has won backing from nine superdelegates and Clinton one, according to the campaigns and interviews.

Obama's Lead

Both sides agree her chance to win the nomination rests on winning a significant majority of superdelegates because Obama is likely to maintain a lead of at least 150 pledged delegates - - those won in primaries and caucuses -- after the last contest is finished. If he does, Clinton, 60, would have to snag more than 70 percent of the remaining 334 or so superdelegates.

Clinton also has suffered defections, notably Georgia Representative John Lewis, a prominent civil-rights leader and early backer of the New York senator, who switched to Obama.

Underlying the movement to Obama, 46, is some politicians' calculation that he'll be the strongest candidate to face Republican Senator John McCain in November.

``All along he has been the one person McCain does not want to run against and that is still true,'' said Senator Jay Rockefeller, a West Virginia Democrat who endorsed Obama last month.

A Chance in Nebraska

Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska said Obama, unlike Clinton, stands a chance of winning at least part of his state, which has voted Republican in every presidential election since 1964 and is one of two states that award some presidential electoral votes by congressional district rather than winner-take-all.

``Obama has coattails in Nebraska,'' said Nelson, who endorsed his Senate colleague two months ago. ``Our internal polls show he can win one, possibly two, congressional districts.''

Clinton's advisers contend that most of the uncommitted superdelegates will hold off taking sides until the last 10 primaries and caucuses are held.

``We think the momentum has been stopped, not cold, but very much stopped,'' Clinton adviser Harold Ickes said.

Clinton's aides argue that because she has won big states such as New York, New Jersey, California, Texas and Ohio, she would be the better general-election candidate.

Polls so far show little difference in head-to-head match- ups between McCain, 71, and either Clinton or Obama. Clinton and McCain are tied with 46 percent each, according to an average of national surveys compiled by Obama would have a 2 percentage-point edge over McCain, a result within the margin of error.

Swing States

The same holds true in Ohio, which Clinton won, and Pennsylvania, where voter surveys say she is leading in the April 22 primary. Polls show Obama does as well or better than Clinton against McCain in those crucial swing states.

In Iowa, a February Des Moines Register poll showed Obama beating McCain 53 percent to 36 percent, while McCain beat Clinton 49 percent to 40 percent.

That is one of the reasons he's won support from governors in Republican-leaning states, including Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas, Janet Napolitano of Arizona and Iowa's Chet Culver.

``It comes down to electability in red states like Iowa,'' Culver said this week.

Among pledged delegates, Obama has 1,390 to Clinton's 1,248, AP's unofficial estimate shows. A total of 2,025 delegates is needed for the nomination.

Even if Clinton scores a net gain of 10 delegates in Pennsylvania, Obama can make that up with wins in smaller states such as North Carolina and South Dakota, which vote later.

Feeling Pressure

Meanwhile, superdelegates are being pressured by both sides. Joyce Beatty, the minority leader of the Ohio state legislature, has heard from Clinton; her husband, former President Bill Clinton; their daughter Chelsea; Obama; and his wife, Michelle.

Beatty, the first black female minority leader in Ohio's history, is torn by competing allegiances. While her district in Columbus voted for Obama, Clinton won overwhelmingly statewide.

The toughest pressure she's feeling isn't coming from the campaigns. With a mother who supports Obama and a father who supports Clinton, she will eventually have to choose between her parents.

``I think my mother puts a lot more pressure on me than anyone,'' she said. ``I have to look at her every day.''

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