NPR logo

David Welna: Obama and Superdelegates

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Will Obama's Latest Primary Results Win Delegates?

Election 2008

Will Obama's Latest Primary Results Win Delegates?

David Welna: Obama and Superdelegates

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Barack Obama's big win in North Carolina and Hillary Clinton's slim victory in Indiana may finally nudge some undeclared superdelegates to make a decision. More than 80 Democrats in Congress have not yet declared who they're supporting. Barack Obama is in Washington, D.C., Thursday trying to win some of them over to his side.


Barack Obama is due in Washington today. He's to meet with some of the more than 80 Democrats in Congress who are superdelegates and have not yet decided which candidate they intend to support. These superdelegates, of course, can vote as they please at the party convention, and Obama hopes to nudge enough of them off the fence and onto his side to secure the party's nomination long before that convention.

As NPR's David Welna reports, some are taking the leap, but others remain holdouts.

DAVID WELNA: For Massachusetts Democratic Senator Edward Kennedy, Barack Obama's big win this week in North Carolina and his narrow loss to Hillary Clinton in Indiana virtually made Obama the Democratic presidential nominee.

Senator EDWARD KENNEDY (Democrat, Massachusetts): And it's pretty effectively sewed up, and I don't see any possibility of altering or changing that inevitable fact. I think the superdelegates will move strongly in his direction.

WELNA: And that's exactly what four more superdelegates did yesterday. One of them, Virginia state delegate Jennifer McClellan told reporters in a conference call that she switched her support from Clinton to Obama because he's built up such an insurmountable lead.

Ms. JENNIFER MCCLELLAN (Superdelegate): I have watched and waited to allow the rest of America to have their voice be heard, but now that that process is almost over, I think the time has come to support Senator Obama as our likely nominee.

WELNA: Also dropping his earlier support for Clinton and switching to Obama was the Democratic Party's 1972 presidential candidate, former South Dakota Senator George McGovern. McGovern, who is not a superdelegate, wants Clinton to bow out of the race now. He said he does not want a repeat of the lengthy primary battle he went through 36 years ago.

Senator GEORGE MCGOVERN (Former Democratic Senator): We were so badly scarred up by that battle the last 30 days for the nomination, then it was carried on right onto the convention floor. So that what the nation saw was a party in disarray. I think that hurt us severely and I don't want to see that happen this time.

Representative JIM MCGOVERN (Democrat, Massachusetts): My view hasn't been changed. It's probably the only time in my life that I've disagreed with George McGovern.

WELNA: That's Massachusetts House Democrat Jim McGovern, who's no relation to the former presidential nominee. This McGovern says as a superdelegate he's still standing by Hillary Clinton.

Rep. MCGOVERN: There's no question that it's an uphill battle. But the fact is that neither Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama could become the nominee without the help of superdelegates. And yeah, the odds are stacked against Hillary, but if it was any other human being I would say that they couldn't do it. But if anyone can do it, she can do it.

WELNA: But other Clinton superdelegates in Congress seem to be wavering. California Senator Diane Feinstein worries the prolonged primary battle is taking a toll on the Democratic Party.

Senator DIANE FEINSTEIN (Democrat, California): I think either race is reaching a point now where there are negative dividends from it in terms of strife within the party. And I think we need to prevent that as much as we can.

WELNA: Hillary Clinton, who's still slightly ahead in the superdelegate count, picked one more here yesterday and met with other who remain uncommitted. Many who have not declared their intentions say they'll likely wait until after the six remaining primaries. One of them is Colorado Senator Ken Salazar, whose state hosts the party convention in late August.

Senator KEN SALAZAR (Democrat, Colorado): I want this to be decided long before we get to August, okay. I don't want us to be there in Denver having a brokered convention. And so I'll do what I can do in the early part of June to try to push it to final resolution.

WELNA: There's also a small group of Democratic lawmakers who will only become superdelegates if their states of Michigan and Florida, which held early primaries in defiance of party rules, get delegations into the convention. Karl Levin is a senator from Michigan.

Senator KARL LEVIN (Democrat, Michigan): There's four of us that are working to get our delegations seated. We're uncommitted. We'll stay that way until we get our delegation seated. We're confident that we're going to succeed. 'Cause no candidate who wants to be president of the United States is going to not seat a Michigan and Florida delegation.

WELNA: And if they are seated, an already complicated delegate count would likely become even more so.

David Welna, NPR News, the Capitol.

Copyright © 2008 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.