Obama makes more gains in superdelegates

Sen. Barack Obama may be losing big state primaries and getting roughed up by controversy but he continues to gain support among Democratic party “superdelegates” who will make the final decision on who gets the nomination.

Recent reports show more and more of the automatic delegates who are not elected by either a primary or caucus system are lining up behind Obama and one story suggests Democratic members of the House and Senate — all superdelegates — have made up their minds and most are going with Obama.

And now the former chairman of the Democratic Party, an early supporter of Clinton, is switching sides and going with Obama.

Where does this leave Hillary Rodham Clinton? Up the creek without a political paddle.

Writes Nedra Pickler of The Associated Press:

A leader of the Democratic Party under Bill Clinton has switched his allegiance to Barack Obama and is encouraging fellow Democrats to “heal the rift in our party” and unite behind the Illinois senator.

Joe Andrew, who was Democratic National Committee chairman from 1999-2001, planned a news conference Thursday in his hometown of Indianapolis to urge other Hoosiers to support Obama in Tuesday’s primary, perhaps the most important contest left in the White House race. He also has written a lengthy letter explaining his decision that he plans to send to other superdelegates.

“I am convinced that the primary process has devolved to the point that it’s now bad for the Democratic Party,” Andrew said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.

Bill Clinton appointed Andrew chairman of the DNC near the end of his presidency, and Andrew endorsed the former first lady last year on the day she declared her candidacy for the White House.

Andrew said in his letter that he is switching his support because “a vote for Hillary Clinton is a vote to continue this process, and a vote to continue this process is a vote that assists (Republican) John McCain.”

“While I was hopeful that a long, contested primary season would invigorate our party, the polls show that the tone and temperature of the race is now hurting us,” Andrew wrote. “John McCain, without doing much of anything, is now competitive against both of our remaining candidates. We are doing his work for him and distracting Americans from the issues that really affect all of our lives.”

Andrew said the Obama campaign never asked him to switch his support, but he decided to do so after watching Obama’s handling of two issues in recent days. He said Obama took the principled stand in opposing a summer gas tax holiday that both Clinton and McCain supported, even though it would have been easier politically to back it. And he said he was impressed with Obama’s handling of the controversy surrounding his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

Earlier, Pickler filed this story:

Barack Obama is closing in on Democratic presidential rival Hillary Rodham Clinton’s advantage among superdelegates, building on his lead in the primary race even as he faces troubled times.

Party leaders are encouraging superdelegates to pick a side by late June to prevent the fight from going to the national convention in August, and it seems some are listening as the race enters its final five weeks of voting.

Chelsea Clinton got a superdelegate for her mom while campaigning in Puerto Rico on Wednesday, just as Obama press secretary Bill Burton sent out a statement announcing the support of Rep. Lois Capps. The statement didn’t mention the personal connection _ Capps is Burton’s mother-in-law.

Clinton had a big jump start among superdelegates, many of whom have ties to the Clintons and backed her candidacy early on. But most of the superdelegates taking sides recently have gone for Obama, who has won more state contests.

Obama trails Clinton by just 21 superdelegates, 243-264, cutting her lead in half in less than two months. This week, he picked up seven delegates to her four.

And this from Politco:

Capitol Hill insiders say the battle for congressional superdelegates is over, and one Senate supporter of Barack Obama is hinting strongly that he has prevailed over Hillary Rodham Clinton.

While more than 80 Democrats in the House and Senate have yet to state their preferences in the race for the Democratic nomination, sources said Tuesday that most of them have already made up their minds and have told the campaigns where they stand.

“The majority of superdelegates I’ve talked to are committed, but it is a matter of timing,” said Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.). “They’re just preferring to make their decision public after the primaries are over. … They would like someone else to act for them before they talk about it in the cold light of day.”

Obama currently holds an 18-13 lead among committed superdelegates in the Senate, while Clinton holds a 77-74 lead in the House. Asked which way the committed-but-unannounced superdelegates are leaning, McCaskill — who has endorsed Obama — said: “James Brown would say, ‘I Feel Good.’”