The Trail

Wednesday, February 20, 2008


Clyburn Plays Down Superdelegates' Role

Rep. James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.) has joined an influential chorus on Capitol Hill contending that superdelegates will not play a decisive role in the nominating convention in August so long as one of the two front-runners emerges from the regular voting process with a clearly defined lead.

Clyburn said it would be "crazy" to think that a majority of superdelegates would side with a candidate who finished second and flip the nomination to that candidate.

"It's crazy to think that way, and it's crazy to act that way," Clyburn said Friday in a more than 30-minute interview. "What our role is supposed to be is to extend the will of the people, not reverse it."

Clyburn's view is, for now, good news for Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), who had a lead in the number of pledged delegates he has collected over Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) heading into last night's contests.

Clyburn's views on the presidential race have been heavily scrutinized because of his role as the most powerful Democrat in South Carolina, which voted last month, and because, as House majority whip, he is the highest-ranking African American in Congress. Clyburn has remained neutral in the race, though both campaigns have, at times, over-interpreted his comments to their benefit.

Two other senior House Democrats -- Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), who is chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee -- have expressed similar positions on superdelegates.

"I don't think it was ever intended that superdelegates would overturn the verdict, the decision of the American people. What they are there to do is to be in place should there be a need for some change . . . but not to change what happened in the election," Pelosi told reporters Thursday.

"I do think it would be a huge mistake for the superdelegates to try and somehow overturn the judgment of the voters throughout the country," Van Hollen said in an interview with a Post reporter, broadcast on C-SPAN Sunday.

Pelosi, Clyburn and Van Hollen all hold out the possibility of superdelegates flipping the nomination to a second-place finisher only if the front-runner were no longer capable of winning in November, a scenario Van Hollen described as plausible should there be "some kind of intervening event . . . some kind of scandal."

-- Paul Kane

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