Obama Picks Up Superdelegate Support In Virginia

May 7, 2008

Democratic superdelegate Jennifer McClellan on Wednesday became one of four party activists nationally to commit her support to Barack Obama.

McClellan, a Democratic National Committee member and two-term member of the Virginia House of Delegates member, had earlier supported Hillary Rodham Clinton.

In a telephone news conference with Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, one of Obama's earliest supporters, McClellan said Tuesday's primaries persuaded her to commit to Obama.

"I think the time has come to support Senator Obama as the likely nominee. Given what happened last night, it's very unlikely we will have a different result," McClellan said.

Obama trounced Clinton in North Carolina while Clinton barely won Indiana's primary, giving Obama a substantial lead in the popular vote and a lead in pledge delegates allocated according to primary and caucus victory margins. Superdelegates are party insiders and elected officials who are free to support whomever they choose.

"I think it was the math," McClellan said. "I think Senator Clinton would need to win probably 70 percent of the remaining primaries and 70 percent of the remaining superdelegates. Based on what's happened so far, I don't see that happening. That was the biggest factor in my decision today."

The Obama campaign announced three other supporters on Wednesday - North Carolina Democratic Party Chairman Jerry Meek, North Carolina Democratic National Committee member Jeanette Council, and California DNC member Inola Henry.

Clinton picked up one delegate in Rep. Heath Shuler, who said he would support whoever won his district in North Carolina. Shuler is a former Washington Redskins quarterback.

McClellan and Kaine both said it's time for the party to unify around a nominee and focus their attention on presumptive Republican nominee John McCain, but neither flatly asked Clinton to quit.

"Senator Clinton needs to make the right decision about going forward and we would not presume to suggest to her what that decision should be," Kaine said.

"But there is a limited amount of time between now and November. It will help the Democrats, I believe, to turn the campaign from a within-the-party campaign into a campaign between our nominee and the Republican nominee and to do that as soon as possible," he said.

McClellan said primaries can help the party because the party uses it as an opportunity to organize itself and register new voters.

"If Senator Clinton decides to move forward with (the May 12 primary in) West Virginia and beyond, then that's her decision," McClellan said.

McClellan committed to Clinton in December, but backed away after Obama won about 60 percent of the vote in Virginia's Feb. 12 primary, including her Richmond legislative district.

Dogged nonstop by appeals from Obama and Clinton for weeks, McClellan had said she would wait until more primaries make it clearer which candidate would become the Democratic nominee.

Other Virginia superdelegates stayed put.

"We've come this far and the process needs to sort itself out," said state Democratic chairman C. Richard Cranwell of Vinton, also a superdelegate.

"But I'm tickled to death that Jennifer has reached a comfort level to make a decision," he said.

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