iOS app Android app More

Superdelegate Silence Speaks For Clinton


What a day in superdelegate endorsements. Yesterday, I reported that Obama had snatched 3 superdelegates to 1 for Clinton. Since then, the pace has only accelerated with 6 superdelegates coming forward since then (and 5 just this morning).

At this point, the conventional wisdom regarding superdelegates is that many who are currently uncommitted are privately supporting Obama and are looking for a more opportune time to come forward, perhaps hoping that the next few weeks of contests will force Clinton out of the race without their having to do anything. Politico is thus reporting that Obama backers are confident that many of the undecided supers in Congress have already decided in Obama's favor, with Claire McCaskill leading the chorus of optimists.

Yet, how much of this is spin? Over and over again over the past few months there have been rumors that Obama was about to announce a wave of superdelegate endorsements. Those rumors have never come to pass, and that suggests that these superdelegates remain undecideds no matter who they might be supporting; after all, the Obama campaign could close the deal if they obtained a big wave of superdelegate endorsements. And this is probably the best the Clinton campaign is hoping for right now; they know their case for why Obama is unelectable is not yet convincing and that they need a more evidence (that they hope will be supplied on May 6th, in KY and WV and in the consequences of the Wright controversy) to get superdelegate to reconsider. For now, all the Clinton campaign wants is to keep superdelegates patient.

Yesterday night, speculation started building again that Obama was about to unveil a number of superdelegates today to try and change the subject away from Wright and the rough week he has been having. And this time he is actually delivering, with 3 congressional endorsements for Obama this morning alone:

  • Rep. Baron Hill of Indiana, who gives Obama credibility among the blue-collar constituency he needs in the Hoosier state.
  • Rep. Bruce Braley of Iowa, who was an Edwards supporter during the caucuses.
  • Rep. Lois Capps of California.
In a sign of how close this primary contest has really become, Hillary Clinton has unveiled the same number of superdelegates since my last post about this yesterday:

  • Bill George, the president of the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO.
  • Rep. Ike Skelton of Missouri, the Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.
  • Luisette Cabanas, a superdelegate from Puerto Rico who was convinced during a trip by Chelsea Clinton.
It goes without saying that Clinton needs much more than split superdelegates equally; the exact proportion depends on how the upcoming contests play out exactly and whether any of the FL and MI delegations are seated, but it is certain that she needs a very large majority of the remaining uncommitted superdelegates to move to her side. Considering her poor track record in superdelegate endorsements since Super Tuesday, keeping the score equal is an accomplishment for her, but it is far from enough.

As the number of uncommitted superdelegate decreases without Clinton picking up a significant number, the proportion of uncommitted supers she will need to get increases; thus, keeping the number of endorsements equal is a clear victory for Obama. And the fact that 10 superdelegates have endorsed in 48 hours suggests that Clinton is running out of time, and that many are no longer willing to be patient. Howard Dean's pleas that voters make up their mind might be convincing some to step forward, and Republican efforts to attack Obama down-the-ballot might be backfiring on Clinton if Democratic superdelegates get concerned that the prolonged primary is actually starting to hurt Obama's chances in the general.


Read more at Daniel Nichanian's blog, Campaign Diaries.