Democrats in US Congress split on Obama, Clinton

Support for U.S. presidential rivals Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton among their fellow Democrats in the U.S. Congress is just about split and may become pivotal.

Democrats in US Congress split on Obama, Clinton
Overall, 97 Democrats in the House of Representatives and Senate have endorsed Sen. Obama of Illinois, while 98 have endorsed Sen. Clinton of New York. Eighty-six others have yet to back either in their party's battle for the presidential nomination and face mounting pressure to soon do so.

"Let me tell you the bottom line: They don't want to make this choice if they don't have to," said Assistant Senate Democratic Leader Dick Durbin, co-chair of the Obama campaign.

"They are trying to avoid the pain of what comes with making the choice because some of their constituents back home are going to be for the other person," he said.

"Many come up to me and say, 'Don't worry, I'm for Barack.' I say, 'When?' They say, 'Well, maybe she'll drop out.'" Maybe. Maybe not.

Clinton has vowed to fight all the way to the party's nominating convention in August, if needed, maintaining she has the best shot to beat the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Arizona Sen. John McCain, in the November election.

All 283 U.S. Democratic lawmakers, including Clinton and Obama, are among the nearly 800 superdelegates -- members of Congress and party insiders -- who have a vote at the party's August nominating convention.

Obama leads among delegates awarded in nominating contests -- 1,492 to 1,338, according to MSNBC's figures. Yet neither he nor she can reach the 2,025 needed to capture the nomination without superdelegates.

Most of Clinton's superdelegates declared early in the campaign when she was the front-runner. Obama picked up the bulk of his superdelegates after he charged into the lead.

All uncommitted superdelegates have been urged to declare soon after the final state nominating contests on June 3 in hopes of wrapping up the race and avoiding a convention fight.

Many are torn.

"I think the world of Barack and Hillary," said Sen. Tom Carper of Delaware. "But I also want to make sure we win.

"After June 3, I'll take a look at the lay of the land, see what voters say and try to get a sense of who is the most electable."

Superdelegates are free to pick anyone they want. Some say they should reflect the will of their constituents. Others say they should consider who has the best chance to win.

DIVISIONS WITHIN THE PARTY

House Democratic Whip James Clyburn of South Carolina said superdelegates should decide for themselves.

"I don't think there should be some kind of an electronic, smoke-filled room," Clyburn said. "That's crazy.

"Just make the announcement as to who you're for and the DNC (Democratic National Committee) will tally that up."

The race between their two liberal Democratic presidential candidates has caused divisions within the party, at least temporarily, and may end up costing some House Democratic members their seats, particularly first-term lawmakers in conservative districts.

But overall, Clyburn said, echoing the sentiment of many congressional analysts, "I think we're going to pick up people no matter who is on the ticket."

Democratic Rep. Gene Taylor of Mississippi said he is in no rush to endorse Obama or Clinton and that "there's a chance" he will not make any endorsement. Taylor said he expected McCain to carry his district.

In March, some party fund-raisers wrote House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to complain about her position that superdelegates should reflect their constituents' wishes.

"Superdelegates must look to not one criterion but to the full panoply of factors that will help them assess who will be the party's strongest nominee," they wrote in reflecting the position of the Clinton campaign.

Brendan Daly, Pelosi's press secretary, replied that superedelegates' "choice will be based on many considerations."

But Daly added, "The speaker believes it would do great harm to the Democratic Party if superdelegates are perceived to overturn the will of the voters."

Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon said he intended to remain neutral, at least for the next few months, while he stays focused on trying to craft a bipartisan heath care plan.

"But if it comes down to a hot August night (at the Democratic convention) in Denver and I need to make a judgment, I'll make a judgment," he said.

Reuters
Last Mod: 05 Mayıs 2008, 09:14
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