Election 2008


This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

One thing Hillary Clinton's win in Pennsylvania did not change: This is still a race that will almost surely be decided by the superdelegates. Those are the nearly 800 Democratic officials who can vote as they please at the party's nominating convention next August. The superdelegates include all the Democrats in Congress.

And as NPR's David Welna found, they have mixed feelings about their roles as king or queen makers.

DAVID WELNA: When people started talking about superdelegates just a few months ago, it was assumed the candidate most able to pick up endorsements from these party insiders was Senator Hillary Clinton. And for a while, that was true. But her lead over Senator Barack Obama in superdelegates has shrunk dramatically from about 100 to only about two dozen.

And Clinton's big win in Pennsylvania has so far failed to pick up any more superdelegates from that state. House Democrat Bob Brady's district in Philadelphia chose Obama over Clinton by a two-to-one margin. He would not say yesterday which of the two candidates he'll vote for as a superdelegate.

Representative BOB BRADY (Democrat, Pennsylvania): They know who I am. They know where I'm at.

WELNA: Have they talked to you before?

Rep. BRADY: Oh yeah, absolutely. All the time. I talk to them all the time -both senators.

WELNA: And what do you tell them?

Rep. BRADY: I told them to keep it clean, you know, have a good election, try not to throw too much, you know, sparring with each other and just talk about the issues. And they said they both would try to do that.

WELNA: Brady did allow his district's preference for Obama would have what he called a major influence on his vote as a superdelegate. It's just a question, he said, of, quote, "maybe when." That when for Tennessee House Democrat John Tanner came yesterday, two-and-a-half months after both his state and district chose Clinton - Tanner announced he had as well, as a superdelegate.

Representative JOHN TANNER (Democrat, Tennessee): There's no bigger significance to it other than I just - she asked - I talked to her this morning, and I said, yes, I'd be glad to endorse you. I'm going to vote for you when the time comes, whether June or August, if I have the chance. So I'll be glad to do it.

WELNA: Oklahoma's Democratic Governor Brad Henry reached the opposite conclusion. Even though Clinton easily won that state's primary, Henry announced yesterday he was endorsing Obama.

Governor BRAD HENRY (Democrat, Oklahoma): I thought about it and I felt it was important for me to come out now. I've been a quiet supporter of Barack Obama. I voted for him in our primary on February 5th. And I feel like it's important that superdelegates, whomever they support, go ahead and begin to announce their position and their endorsement of those that they support so we can begin to resolve this much quicker.

WELNA: Still, some superdelegates prefer being holdouts. Oregon House Democrat David Wu, whose state holds its primary May 20th, says he just as soon see Clinton and Obama keep battling for votes, including his.

Representative DAVID WU (Democrat, Oregon): I will decide at a reasonable time. I have very little intention of stretching it out till the convention. But I just have not had a reason to declare up till now.

WELNA: Obama supporters argue their candidate has won so many more states and pledged delegates than Clinton that superdelegates should close ranks behind him so he can focus on beating the presumptive Republican nominee, John McCain. That fails to sway California House Democrat Diane Watson, who backs Clinton.

Representative DIANE WATSON (Democrat, California): I'm going to stay with her all the way, for the long run. Should the delegation or should the decision get all the way to the conference in August, then whoever comes out of that, I will support as vigorously as I have supported Hillary.

WELNA: Missouri House Democrat Emanuel Cleaver also backs Clinton, even though Obama won his state and his Kansas City district. Caught between conflicting loyalties, Cleaver says he, for one, is not happy at all about being a superdelegate.

Representative EMANUEL CLEAVER (Democrat, Missouri): We have a process that appears to be about as stupid as human beings could put in place.

WELNA: About 300 superdelegates have yet to declare their support for either Democratic candidate. They will most certainly be under increasing pressure to do so, since their votes in the end will likely settle this race.

David Welna, NPR News, the Capitol.

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

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

NPR thanks our sponsors

Become an NPR sponsor

Support comes from