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Campaign 2008 | Super delegates are poised to make Obama's victory sure

Issue: "Return of the Lion," May 17, 2008

On the morning after Sen. Barack Obama's blowout victory in North Carolina's presidential primary, super delegate Waring Howe Jr. was calling the contest: "I really think for all intents and purposes this nomination race is over as of yesterday."

Howe, a Charleston attorney and member of the Democratic National Committee, committed his super delegate support to Obama in January after months of being courted by Obama's and Sen. Hillary Clinton's campaigns. Four months later, Howe said uncommitted super delegates should see the writing on the wall: "Obama is the inevitable nominee."

Clinton wasn't ready to immediately concede defeat, but her prospects for winning grow dim: The senator had hoped for a substantial victory in Indiana, and perhaps a narrow loss in North Carolina to keep her candidacy viable. Instead, she faced the opposite: a narrow win in Indiana and a substantial loss in the Tar Heel State.

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With only a handful of smaller primaries to go, all eyes turned to super delegates: The 796 party officials comprise about 20 percent of the voting delegates at the Democratic National Convention. The free agents may support the candidate of their choosing, and campaigns aggressively seek their endorsements.

Since the pledged delegate count remains close in the Democratic race, super delegates will likely decide the nominee. Howe predicts that super delegates who are still uncommitted to a candidate will flock to Obama in the weeks ahead. Obama maintains a lead in pledged delegates and the popular vote, and super delegates would likely be disinclined to go against those factors. On the day after his 14-point win in North Carolina, Obama picked up at least four super delegates.

Howe also told WORLD he's spoken to uncommitted super delegates who plan to support Obama: "I know the [super delegate] number for Obama could be greater than what's reported because of people I personally know who support Obama, but not yet publicly."

Jamie Dean
Jamie Dean

Jamie lives and works in North Carolina, where she covers the political beat and other topics as national editor for WORLD Magazine. Follow Jamie on Twitter @deanworldmag.


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