A Delegate Situation

Edwards' endorsement of Obama could sway more superdelegates and advocacy groups

from the upcoming Oregon primary, Obama may cinch the nomination on May 20, as his campaign has predicted. David Bositis, a research analyst at the Joint Center of Political and Economic Studies, is optimistic the numbers will be in Obama’s favor. “I think there’s a good chance he’ll have the number he needs thanks to Oregon and some additional superdelegates he’ll pick up between now and then,” he says.

So, why do some delegates continue to hold back their endorsement, which in effect shortens the amount of time the Democratic Party needs to repair wounds and prepare for the general election this fall? As Hilary Shelton, director of the NAACP’s Washington bureau, explains, “Delegates have a role to play beyond who will be the nominee. They’re also engaged in what the platform will be and holding back to leverage their own issues and concerns as platform planks are determined.”

Shelton adds that as primaries took place across the country, despite their longstanding relationships with either candidate, “it became more evident that there was a need for superdelegates to readjust themselves to support the popular vote. If they didn’t move in tandem with the popular vote, it would create major havoc on the appearance of fairness.”

Ronald Walters, a University of Maryland political scientist, agrees that there’s more to these endorsements than a preference for one candidate over the other. “If you get inside the superdelegate tent and ask yourself what’s their interest, sure, they have an interest in the party and winning, but they also have personal interest. Many are going to be running in the fall and they are making a bet on what’s going to happen,” he says.

Some, such as South Carolina Rep. James E. Clyburn, who is also the House majority whip, just want to see the process play out. Each time he appears on political talk shows, hosts try to coax or cajole an endorsement out of him. Of the House leadership, whose members have not yet announced endorsements, he says, “Sure, we’ve got our preferences, but we still have to run the House and get legislation passed. So, we decided to stay out of any kind of partisan stuff at this point. It has nothing to do with the candidates and more with our responsibilities to the House Democratic caucus.”

Shelton argues that the prolonged course of action has been good for the democratic process, which has encouraged record high participation and registration of new voters. He says, “What’s wonderful about this primary season is that no state is being taken for granted. Every single popular and delegate vote makes a difference. Rather than making tacit bids, or whistle stops, in various states, the candidates have had to restructure and run full-fledged campaigns in every state, and it’s been very good for the democratic process.”

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