Some superdelegates more super than rest
Some superdelegates more super than rest
By STEPHEN OHLEMACHER, Associated Press Writer
2 hours, 12 minutes ago
WASHINGTON - Some of those presidential superdelegates
Democrats Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton are
pursuing are more super than others.
One delegate, one vote doesn't apply to them. These
prominent Democrats can name additional
superdelegates, giving them control over multiple
convention votes, and that could be the difference in
a race that may not be decided until the August
The clout of the nearly 800 superdelegates is
unprecedented in this year's race because neither
Obama nor Clinton can clinch the nomination with only
the delegates won in state primaries and caucuses.
Largely overlooked in the arcane process, though, is
the power of a select few to complete the
superdelegate ranks by naming 76 newbies, and Clinton
and Obama are fighting hard over every one of those
from state conventions to back rooms.
Separated by fewer than 140 delegates, both candidates
are lobbying the hundreds of known superdelegates,
employing family, friends and influential surrogates
to woo the governors, lawmakers and other party
leaders. Some are more important than others.
Consider Art Torres, chairman of the California
Democratic Party. He remains uncommitted, yet he could
be the most powerful superdelegate of all. Torres gets
to name five additional superdelegates, giving him
control over six votes at the national convention this
"I am the super of supers!" Torres proclaims with a
He and other state party chairmen will appoint most of
the additional 76, known in Democratic ranks as
"They basically are gifts to the state party chairs,"
Harold Ickes, a chief strategist for Clinton, said of
the additional superdelegates.
The additional delegates represent a lot of votes in a
race this tight, and neither Obama nor Clinton has
really capitalized so far. Only 20 of the party's 56
state and territory chairmen have endorsed a
candidate, according to surveys of superdelegates by
The Associated Press. Obama has 12 endorsements,
The candidates also have split endorsements from
Democratic governors, who often control state party
matters. Both have 10 gubernatorial endorsements.
Superdelegates can vote for whomever they choose at
the party's convention this August in Denver,
regardless of the results in primaries and caucuses.
In all, there will be nearly 800 superdelegates,
including the 76 extras.
Clinton has been leading in superdelegate endorsements
since before the first primary, but Obama has gained
ground in the past month and a half. The latest AP
tally: Clinton, 250; Obama, 220. Obama has won more
pledged delegates in primaries and caucuses, giving
him the overall delegate lead, 1,634 to 1,500. Needed
to win the nomination: 2,024.
The 76 "add-ons" are doled out to each state based on
population and Democratic voting strength. Every state
but Florida and Michigan, which were penalized for
holding early primaries, gets at least one.
California's five are the most.
The extra delegates will be selected at state party
conventions and committee meetings throughout the
spring. In about half the states, including
California, Georgia and Ohio, they must be chosen from
lists compiled by the state party chairmen. If the
chairmen list only one person for each slot, they
effectively name the extra delegates.
In other states the additional delegates can be
nominated from the floor of the convention or by
simply applying, turning mundane state party
gatherings into spirited debates about the
Alabama's extra delegate was decided by six votes on
March 1, when Obama backer and labor leader Stewart
Burkhalter was selected at a meeting of the state
party's executive committee. Burkhalter said he worked
with the Obama campaign to get the nod.
"If we'd already had a nominee I wouldn't have been an
unpledged add-on, I guess," Burkhalter said.
In past years, states used their extra delegates to
reward elected officials, donors or labor leaders, or
to achieve racial balance in their delegations. This
year, the battle for the extra delegates is one of
many fronts in a historic fight for the Democratic
Aides to both campaigns say they are wading into local
politics to try to make sure the new delegates are
amenable to their candidate.
Some state party chairmen will consult governors or
senators when making their choice; others will simply
pick like-minded delegates.
That's what Wyoming Democratic Chairman John Millin
plans to do when he selects the state's extra delegate
in May. Millin, who has endorsed Obama, said he plans
to choose another Obama supporter for the spot, though
he hopes their votes are not decisive.
"The two votes that I get are frankly two more votes
than I really want at the national convention," Millin
said. "The party as a whole needs to wrap this up soon
after the primaries. I would like to see the decision
made long before we get to Denver."
In California, Torres has come up with a diplomatic
way to select his five delegates. He said he plans to
award them in proportion to the vote in California's
Democratic primary. Clinton received about 52 percent
of the vote, so she gets three; Obama got 43 percent
of the vote, so he gets two.
Torres said he will also use the slots to help meet
the state's affirmative action goals.
"I want to take a delegation to the convention that
reflects the diversity of California," Torres said.
Both campaigns lobbied Oklahoma Democratic Chairman
Ivan Holmes before he picked the state's extra
delegate in February. It didn't work.
Holmes, who hasn't endorsed Clinton or Obama, said he
selected another undecided superdelegate, the state
party's chief fundraiser, Reggie Whitten.
"I had all kinds of people wanting to do this, and
Reggie never asked me," Holmes said.
Holmes said he originally backed former Sen. John
Edwards, believing he would do well in Oklahoma,
perhaps providing coattails for local candidates. He
said he has yet to see that trait in Obama or Clinton.
"Obama brings young people into the party that we
haven't had before, and Hillary brings in a lot of
independent women," Holmes said. "Unfortunately, the
polls show that neither of them are going to win Oklahoma."