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Democratic hopefuls woo superdelegates

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070528/ap_on_el_pr/democrats_delegates;_ylt=ArHAVtYJIwc5GC_f.sCBjz6s0NUE Democratic hopefuls woo superdelegates By BETH FOUHY,
    Message 1 of 1 , May 28, 2007
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      http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070528/ap_on_el_pr/democrats_delegates;_ylt=ArHAVtYJIwc5GC_f.sCBjz6s0NUE

      Democratic hopefuls woo superdelegates

      By BETH FOUHY, Associated Press Writer 1 hour, 29
      minutes ago

      NEW YORK - It's more than half a year — and a few
      snowstorms — until the first votes in Iowa, yet
      Democratic presidential hopefuls have already captured
      some of the delegates critical to winning the
      nomination.

      Not just any delegates — "superdelegates," the party's
      top echelon of elected officials who can back a
      candidate at any time no matter what the calendar,
      caucus-goer or primary voter says. Candidates have
      been pursuing endorsements from Democratic governors
      and members of Congress, knowing these individuals
      will have a direct say in choosing the party's
      nominee.

      The 235 Democratic House members and nonvoting
      representatives, 49 senators, the District of
      Columbia's two "shadow senators" and 28 governors
      total 314 — about 14 percent of the 2,182 delegates a
      candidate will need to secure the party's presidential
      nomination at next year's national convention in
      Denver.

      Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Barack
      Obama (news, bio, voting record) of Illinois, the
      Democratic front-runners, have established
      sophisticated "whip" operations to woo undecided
      colleagues. Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards
      has engaged the talents of his campaign manager, a
      former House Democratic whip, to court the
      uncommitted.

      With eight months to go before voters begin choosing
      delegates through the primary process, many Democrats
      view the early accumulation of superdelegates as savvy
      planning for the future. Unfortunately for the
      presidential hopefuls, superdelegates can be
      fair-weather allies who aren't formally bound to any
      particular candidate and can shift their loyalties at
      will.

      Phil McNamara, director of delegate selection for the
      Democratic National Committee, put it this way: "These
      people are politicians. In the end, they'll support
      whomever is the nominee and they'll still get to go to
      the convention."

      Even so, the candidates are all pursuing the support
      of superdelegates, making personal appeals and
      enlisting the help of colleagues.

      Clinton has mounted the most aggressive program to
      court superdelegates, winning endorsements from 37 so
      far, including three Senate colleagues and the
      governors of Maryland, New Jersey and New York. She's
      even deputized several House members as "whips" to woo
      uncommitted colleagues. The group includes Ohio Rep.
      Stephanie Tubbs-Jones, Florida Rep. Debbie
      Wasserman-Schultz, and New York Reps. Nita Lowey
      (news, bio, voting record) and Joseph Crowley (news,
      bio, voting record).

      In an interview, Crowley said the effort has morphed a
      bit since it began in March, when the Clinton whips
      initially tried to target lawmakers from specific
      states.

      "We have an initial strategy of breaking it down into
      regions, but more often than not it's based on your
      own relationships with people, that level of comfort,"
      Crowley said.

      Part of the sales pitch, Crowley said, is emphasizing
      that an early endorsement is usually remembered as
      more meaningful than signing on later in the campaign.

      "You say it's always good to be in early. Clearly,
      when you have a lot of good candidates out there,
      regionality comes into play, but she has a broad
      wingspan beyond New York," he said.

      Clinton's lead rival, Obama, tries to frame his
      campaign as a grass-roots, bottom-up enterprise. But
      he, too, has been courting endorsements and has picked
      up 22, including his Illinois Senate colleague Dick
      Durbin and the governors of Virginia and Illinois.

      The campaign also has its own whip operation, with
      Alabama Rep. Artur Davis (news, bio, voting record),
      Illinois Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. and Florida Rep.
      Robert Wexler (news, bio, voting record) playing
      prominent roles.

      In an interview, Wexler said his courtship of
      undecided House members on Obama's behalf was so
      intense, "It's almost a joke — but in a nice way."

      As an example, Wexler said he had spoken extensively
      with Rep. Russ Carnahan (news, bio, voting record)
      about Obama before the Missouri Democrat made his
      endorsement.

      "He sought me out and asked questions, asked why I got
      involved so early," Wexler said. "For some members of
      Congress who are neutral and still making up their
      minds, it provides a degree of comfort knowing there
      are other members of Congress, not from Illinois, who
      are strongly supporting Sen. Obama."

      Edwards counts 15 congressional endorsements so far,
      including several House members from his home state.

      Edwards' campaign manager David Bonior, a former
      Michigan congressman and House Democratic whip, called
      the endorsement effort "one piece of a very large
      puzzle." He said he spends considerable time on it,
      both on the phone and in frequent visits to Capitol
      Hill, including one Tuesday. He also relies on help
      from several members who have already endorsed
      Edwards, including Tennessee Rep. Bart Stupak (news,
      bio, voting record), South Dakota Rep. Stephanie
      Herseth (news, bio, voting record) Sandlin and Texas
      Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (news, bio, voting record).

      "These people are validators who are telling voters
      that John Edwards is a great candidate to be
      president," Bonior said. "When people agree to endorse
      you, it's very much what they're saying."

      Among the other Democratic candidates, Connecticut
      Sen. Chris Dodd has eight superdelegates, including
      all the House Democrats from his home state. Delaware
      Sen. Joe Biden has one so far: his home state
      colleague in the Senate, Tom Carper.

      New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, who served 15
      years in the House, has won endorsements from New
      Mexico Sen. Jeff Bingaman (news, bio, voting record)
      and three House members.

      ___

      Associated Press Writer Devlin Barrett in Washington
      contributed to this report.
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