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Obama picks up support of 2 key superdelegates

Steadily closing gap stands at 21

Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Foon Rhee
Globe Staff / May 1, 2008

Barack Obama, who has been urging superdelegates leaning toward him to declare their allegiance, landed a significant haul yesterday that further trimmed Hillary Clinton's superdelegate lead a day after he repudiated his former pastor.

Two endorsements were particularly noteworthy: Baron Hill is a congressman in Indiana, which votes Tuesday, and he specifically cited Obama's disavowal Tuesday of the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. And Representative Lois Capps of California, despite her long and close ties with the Clintons, said she was convinced by the Obama movement and turned off by the tone of the nomination fight.

Obama now trails Clinton by 21 superdelegates, cutting her lead in half in less than two months, according to the latest Associated Press tally. He has 243, she has 264, about 230 are undeclared, and another 60 have yet to be selected among superdelegates - the elected officials and party leaders who will almost certainly determine the Democratic nominee because neither candidate can win enough pledged delegates from the nine remaining primaries and caucuses.

Obama leads in total delegates, 1,731.5 to 1,598.5, putting him within 300 of clinching the nomination.

Senator Evan Bayh, Clinton's most notable supporter in Indiana, had urged the state's uncommitted members of Congress to wait until after the primary to endorse. Hill noted that pressure, but said "the stakes are just too high" to wait any longer.

In a statement provided by the Obama campaign, Hill said the Illinois senator's repudiation of Wright "showed me another aspect of Senator Obama's leadership - a strength of character and commitment to our nation that transcends the personal."

Capps acknowledged it wasn't an easy decision to rebuff Clinton, whom she described as "smart, dedicated, and a champion of those often underserved and forgotten."

"She has a remarkable record of achievement that inspires us all," Capps said in a statement. "And her election would fulfill a lifelong dream for so many of us who have been fighting for women's rights. She would make a great president."

But she said Obama is the best choice, citing his "proven judgment, his hopeful vision for America, and his unmatched ability to motivate millions of Americans eager for change."

The Clintons campaigned and raised money for her late husband, representative Walter Capps. When Capps died of a heart attack during his first term in 1997, Bill Clinton delivered the eulogy at his congressional memorial service. When Lois Capps ran to succeed her husband, the Clintons raised money for her as well. Laura Capps, their daughter, was a speechwriter in the Clinton White House, and is now married to Obama's spokesman.

Obama also picked up the backing yesterday of Representative Bruce Braley of Iowa, who supported John Edwards until he dropped out at the end of January.

Meanwhile, Clinton received the support of Bill George, the AFL-CIO leader in Pennsylvania, whose primary she won last week to reenergize her campaign.

"Working families in Pennsylvania overwhelmingly favored her in last week's primary, and I feel that she is our strongest candidate to carry Pennsylvania in November and win back the White House," George, a Democratic National Committee member, said in a statement provided by the Clinton campaign.

Clinton also won the endorsement of the party vice chairman in Puerto Rico, which votes on June 1. Luisette Cabañas cited the Pennsylvania win and also said, "Her proposals for Puerto Rico, particularly those related to healthcare, are the best by far of any candidate in history."

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