Most 'Superdelegates' Remain Uncommitted

The Associated Press
Sunday, December 2, 2007; 2:25 PM

WASHINGTON -- New Hampshire and Iowa will have to wait. The nation's first presidential primary, for Democrats anyway, is being waged among hundreds of party insiders _ superdelegates who could play a big part in selecting the nominee at next summer's national convention.

So far, most of them still haven't been sold on any of the candidates.

The Associated Press contacted 90 percent of the 765 superdelegates, mostly elected officials and other party officers, who are free to support anyone they choose at the convention, regardless of what happens in the primaries.

Hillary Rodham Clinton leads Barack Obama by more than a 2-1 margin among those who have endorsed a candidate. But a little more than half of those contacted _ 365 _ said they haven't settled on a Democratic standard bearer.

"The fact that under half have publicly committed shows me how open the Democratic race still is," said Jenny Backus, a Democratic consultant who is not affiliated with any campaign. "It's a sign that the race isn't totally done in many people's minds."

Clinton has the endorsement of 169 superdelegates. She is followed by Obama, 63; John Edwards, 34; Bill Richardson, 25; Chris Dodd, 17; Joe Biden, 8, and Dennis Kucinich, 2.

Superdelegates tend to support the front-runner, said David Rohde, a political scientist at Duke University. "They want to be on the winning side," he said.

So why don't more of them back Clinton, who leads in national polls?

"They are still concerned about her ability to win the general election," Rohde said.

He said Clinton's high negative numbers among likely voters have many party insiders skittish. However, he added, if Clinton sweeps the early voting in Iowa and New Hampshire, "these people will flock to her."

On the other hand, a spokeswoman for Obama expressed confidence he would pick up superdelegates after doing well in early voting states. "We are pleased with our current support in the DNC and know that as the states go, so will superdelegates," said Jen Psaki.

Superdelegates are the ultimate party insiders, including all Democratic members of Congress, as well as a number of other elected officials and members of the Democratic National Committee. They will attend the convention next summer with about 3,200 other delegates who have been pledged to various presidential candidates based on the outcomes of primaries and party caucuses in their states.

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