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House Democratic Whip James Clyburn (D-SC), who has thrown his support to Sen. Barack Obama, attends the Days of Remembrance Program in the Capitol Rotunda, May 1, 2008, in Washington, DC.
Rep. James E. Clyburn, an influential Democratic superdelegate, threw his support behind Sen. Barack Obama's candidacy Tuesday, telling NPR that it's time to make his position clear for the good of the party.
The house majority whip could sway other superdelegates as Democrats hope to tie up a bitter primary contest and mend fences ahead of the party's August nominating convention in Denver.
Clyburn, of South Carolina, told NPR's Tell Me More that he hopes his support will prompt other superdelegates to declare for Obama, so the Illinois senator "can go before the American public and respond to voters, and do that tonight" as the Democratic candidate.
"Tonight is the night he has scheduled his big speech. He would like to say some things to the American public and declare victory tonight," Clyburn said, answering a question about why he declared his support before results from Tuesday's Montana and South Dakota primaries were known. "I think it's time for us to chart a new course, draw a new map, get rid of conventional wisdom and move ahead."
Many superdelegates, who make up about 20 percent of the total Democratic nominating delegates, have waited until the end of the long primary season before declaring their support for a candidate. Clyburn's move could prompt others to quickly follow suit.
Two other superdelegates, from Michigan and Missouri, endorsed Obama on Tuesday morning, leaving him just 40 delegates short of the 2,118 needed to put him over the top and make him the nation's first black presidential nominee from a major party.
Clinton has vowed to take the fight to the nominating convention and in recent months pointed to various calculations to show that she is close to Obama in the delegate count. Clyburn dismissed the numbers from her campaign as "Clinton math."
Clinton campaign chairman Terry McAuliffe told NBC's Today show Tuesday that once Obama gets the majority of convention delegates, "I think Hillary Clinton will congratulate him and call him the nominee."