Portrait of a Utah Superdelegate Utah's Democratic caucuses were dominated by Sen. Barack Obama, but two of Utah's six superdelegates have been formally committed to Sen. Hillary Clinton. Now Helen Langan, inundated with voicemail and e-mail, is a superdelegate under super pressure.
NPR logo

Portrait of a Utah Superdelegate

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/89408886/89408863" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Portrait of a Utah Superdelegate

Portrait of a Utah Superdelegate

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/89408886/89408863" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


On the campaign trail, pressure continues on the so-called superdelegates, who will likely decide whether Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton is the Democratic presidential nominee. We call this the backroom primary, and we've been finding out who these superdelegates are and how they will make their choices.

NPR's Howard Berkes spoke with a superdelegate in Utah torn between her commitement to Clinton and her state's primary vote for Obama.

HOWARD BERKES: Helen Langan is getting super pressure about being a superdelegate.

(Soundbite of phone ringing)

Ms. HELEN LANGAN (Democratic Superdelegate, Utah): I have to put her on speaker(ph).

BERKES: There's voicemail every day.

Unidentified Man: Some of these superdelegates aren't even going with the majority of the people in their area. I think that's a very selfish thing for a superdelegate.

BERKES: There are e-mails every day.

Ms. LANGAN: This came yesterday. I have absolutely nothing against Senator Clinton. If she were the party's nominee, I would gladly support her. Please join Democrats in Utah in support of Senator Obama.

BERKES: There are political messages left on Langan's MySpace page, which is devoted to her upcoming wedding.

Ms. LANGAN: Obviously not people we know, which is kind of what made it so funny and surprising for my fiance when he opened it up and, you know, found messages from total strangers about the presidential election, asking me to support Senator Obama.

BERKES: And there's even that husband-to-be.

Ms. LANGAN: He's been writing responses and telling me. He's like, I told them that don't worry, man, I'm working on her. You know, I'm an Obama supporter, too.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BERKES: Langan is a 31-year-old spokeswoman for Salt Lake City's Democratic mayor. She spent two years in the press office of President Clinton. She's a national Democratic committeewoman, which automatically makes her a superdelegate, and she endorsed Hillary Clinton in October, after a seven-year-old niece asked her this:

Ms. LANGAN: Aunt Helen, girls can't be president, can they? And I thought well, and of course I explained to her well, actually, girls can be president. We have not yet had one, but there's actually a fine woman running for president, and it sort of struck me how historic and how meaningful it would be if we could finally, you know, see a woman in the White House.

BERKES: But then Utah Democrats voted overwhelmingly for Barack Obama Super Tuesday, including Langan's childhood best friend, who'd never voted before.

Ms. LANGAN: Thirty-two years old, has never voted. She called me a few months ago, before the primary, and she said you'll be so proud of me, I registered to vote, and I was sort of shocked, and I said why? And she said because I want to vote for Barack Obama. And that type of thing moves me almost more than anything else.

BERKES: That kind of enthusiasm from new voters could help Democrats running for local offices in what is often called the nation's most-Republican state, but there's big counter-pressure from someone even closer, who is also an example of opportunity for Democrats.

Ms. LANGAN: I have a mother who is a proud independent who voted for George Bush, and she is an adamant Hillary supporter. And so I kind of look at, you know, those two women that are as close to me as anyone with these different perspectives, and I really kind of go back and forth about it, and I literally today couldn't tell you definitively who I'm going to vote for.

BERKES: At the convention.

Ms. LANGAN: At the convention, right.

BERKES: Langan could make a compelling case for both of them, she says, on issues and leadership, so even though she's officially committed to Hillary Clinton, she's stumped.

Howard Berkes, NPR News, Salt Lake City.

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 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.