Pressure mounts on superdelegatesby Mark Zdechlik, Minnesota Public Radio
Minnesota's three Democratic Party superdelegates who are still uncommitted are coming under intense pressure from supporters of both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.
St. Paul, Minn. — Nancy Larson lives in the central Minnesota town of Dassel and works in St. Paul as a lobbyist. She hardly comes across as a big-time political power broker.
But she is a member of the Democratic National Committee. That makes her a superdelegate, and she has yet to endorse a presidential candidate.
Because of that, her phone has been ringing a lot.
"I've heard from Michelle Obama and had a nice conversation with her," Larson said. "On the Clinton side, I have talked to Madeline Albright. I've talked to Chelsea Clinton. I talked to President Clinton, and then on Super Tuesday I talked to Hillary Clinton."
Larson said there are also lots of e-mails and regular letters.
It's been going on for a long time, but the pressure on Larson and Minnesota's two other uncommitted superdelegates, U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson and U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, is likely to get even more intense.
Minnesota DFL Party Chair Brian Melendez said the importance of superdelegates on the Democratic side of the 2008 presidential race comes down to simple math.
"It is mathematically almost impossible for either one of the two candidates to get to the majority they need, just with the pledged delegates from the primaries and caucuses," Melendez said.
"In a way, the outcome is going to be decided by the superdelegates as long both candidates remain viable," Melendes added. "Obviously, after last night, Sen. Clinton's campaign is revived and we've got a two-person race again."
Melendez was referring to Clinton's victories in Tuesday's Ohio and Texas primaries, which were considered must-wins for her to remain competitive.
Melendez is also a superdelegate who announced last week he is backing Obama.
Nancy Larson said the pressure comes from all directions.
"I get cornered every 10 minutes when I'm around the Capitol," she said.
Larson's job is to convince state lawmakers to support legislation that helps small cities. But she said DFL members of the Legislature have turned the tables on her.
"Now I'm getting lobbied by legislators," she said. "Instead of my lobbying them, they're lobbying me."
Rep. Peterson did not return telephone calls about his choice. His office said Peterson is focused on the farm bill, and is not expected to make any decision soon about the presidential race.
Carleton College political scientist Steven Schier said with superdelegates now in the decision-making position, Klobuchar and Peterson will be hearing a lot of passionate pleas from both sides.
"In Minnesota, it's quite clear that the caucus attendees favored Obama overwhelmingly, but there are arguments for Hillary as well, on electability and experience grounds," said Schier. "So I think they're going to face a lot of pressure from the factions within their party about how to decide, because really, these superdelegates do hold the nomination in their hands."
Nancy Larson said she hasn't set a date for her decision. She said she'll just know when it's time. She said she likes Clinton and Obama and wishes they'd join forces. She joked that they could draw cards to determine which one should be at the top of the ticket.
Larson said her decision won't be about favoring one candidate over another. Ultimately, it will be about holding the party together.
"This is a lot bigger than picking between two candidates," she said. "I think this is making sure that we don't blow up the Democratic Party, don't turn people off by making the wrong steps. I think we have to be very cautious that we help implement whatever the public wants for the most part, and not look like we're just backroom dealmakers."
According to The Associated Press, Clinton has the support of 241 superdelegates compared to 202 for Obama. But more than 350 remain uncommitted, a large enough bloc to swing the nomination.
- All Things Considered, 03/05/2008, 5:20 p.m.