Backroom Primary: Decisive Superdelegates in Pa. Whatever happens in Pennsylvania's April 22 primary, it is the superdelegates nationwide who will likely decide who gets the Democratic presidential nomination. Three committed superdelegates from the Keystone State shared their views on the race.
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Backroom Primary: Decisive Superdelegates in Pa.

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Backroom Primary: Decisive Superdelegates in Pa.

Backroom Primary: Decisive Superdelegates in Pa.

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.


And I'm Michele Norris.

This week, we've been talking with Democratic superdelegates. They will likely decide the contest between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. We've heard from people who haven't made up their minds yet on which candidate to back. But in Pennsylvania, most of the superdelegates have decided and have said so publicly.

NPR's Linda Wertheimer went to Pennsylvania to see what life is like for them less than three weeks before the primary there.

LINDA WERTHEIMER: Clinton And Obama both appeared at a big labor convention in Philadelphia this week, and Clinton was introduced by one of the state's superdelegates who's on her team.

Mr. GERALD McENTEE (President, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees): So everybody is clear about this, I'm here to let everybody know that 1,400,000 members of our union are for Hillary Clinton.

(Soundbite of cheers and applause)

WERTHEIMER: Gerald McEntee is president of AFSCME, Federal State Municipal Workers, and he's from Pennsylvania. As head of his huge union, he'd be important anyway, so he has never taken superdelegate status all that seriously.

Mr. McENTEE: I've been a superdelegate before, and I'm not sure I even knew what it meant. I mean, there was no cause, there was no reason, we never had to do anything. And now, it's taken on a role of great importance.

WERTHEIMER: McEntee says superdelegates will have a big job this time: to persuade their undecided colleagues to jump on someone's bandwagon. He thinks it should be Hillary Clinton's.

Mr. McENTEE: And she did extremely well in Ohio, appealed to what is really the base of Ohio. And I think she can turn it from red to blue, and that's absolutely necessary to win the presidency.

WERTHEIMER: Now, if I were a superdelegate, would this be the kind of pitch you would be making to me?

Mr. McENTEE: Yeah. Correct. You're right. I would. I'd be making that kind of pitch.

WERTHEIMER: Congressman Patrick Murphy represents Philadelphia suburbs. Murphy is an Iraq vet, and he feels strongly that Obama is right on bringing troops home. But his choice got him in a little hot water.

Representative PATRICK MURPHY (Democrat, Philadelphia): I've had, since I came out for him, people who have been my supporters in the past hang up on me on phone calls, and to say - and they're very upset. But, you know, I have to do what I think is in the best interest of the country. That has come with political cost -going against the Clinton machine, going against my governor and the majority of the congressional delegation in Pennsylvania.

WERTHEIMER: What if the will of the people of Pennsylvania is Clinton? Murphy says that the wind is at Obama's back, predicting he'll win Pennsylvania. But in any case, Murphy is sticking with Obama.

Rep. MURPHY: You know, I want to make sure that if he wins the popular vote, if he wins the delegates going in to the convention, I don't want to see the superdelegates overturn what he earned, and that's the right to be our Democratic nominee and, I believe, our eventual next president of the United States. So I will support him.

WERTHEIMER: Murphy thinks the party should drop superdelegates. There should be no appearance that party leaders might override the will of the people, he says.

Marcel Groen leads a quieter life. He's the chair of the suburban Montgomery County Democratic Party. And he spends most of his time with people who are not in politics. Only one reporter chased him down at a restaurant, he says. That would be me.

Mr. MARCEL GROEN (Chairman, Montgomery County Democratic Committee; Superdelegate): Hi, Marcel Groen.

Rabbi ABRAHAM NOVITSKY (Pennsylvania): My name is Rabbi Abraham Novitsky.

Mr. GROEN: I have heard much about you. I've met your son.

Mr. GROEN: You met my son, Rabbi David Novitsky?

Mr. GROEN: I think so.

WERTHEIMER: That was a lunch at a kosher restaurant on behalf of Groen's candidate, Hillary Clinton. Groen thinks superdelegates should play an active role. For one thing, they should vote on the candidates and soon, so there won't be a fight at the convention.

Mr. GROEN: I personally think the DNC should have a meeting. I think we should invite Senators Obama and Senators Clinton. I think we need to get them in a room. I think we need to understand that everybody is taking count right now and this is what the count is going to be, and let's move forward. If not, the only thing we've accomplished by this historical contest is to elect Senator McCain. That makes no sense.

WERTHEIMER: Groen's in a delicate position as a neutral party chair bringing both candidates into his county, and a Clinton superdelegate. He's pleased that thousands of new Democrats have registered for this primary. Mostly, he says, it's been exciting.

Mr. GROEN: The last two weeks have been a little bit more complicated. The campaigns themselves, I think, got nastier and more personal. This week, it's totally different. This week it's - all of a sudden, the press is more involved, the Obama campaign is more involved. I think the tone has improved significantly. Next week, it'll be something else. But I mean, it's really a roller coaster ride.

WERTHEIMER: Are you liking it?

Mr. GROEN: Right now, I love it. Last week, I - you could have had it.

(Soundbite of laughter)

WERTHEIMER: Our three Pennsylvania superdelegates all would like to use their super status to speed up the nominating process, maybe even try winner-take-all primaries.

Linda Wertheimer, NPR News.

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