Obama Hits the House Floor
Updated 4:25 p.m.
By Shailagh Murray
Sen. Barack Obama was mobbed on the House floor this morning as he hunted for superdelegates to lock up the Democratic nomination. Republicans, Clinton supporters, his own backers and more than a few undecided Democrats received the Illinois senator as if he were already the nominee.
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton spent Wednesday in D.C. trying to lobby uncommitted House superdelegates, but she asked them to come to her and had limited success persuading busy lawmakers to leave the Capitol. Obama showed up on their turf, walking into a packed chamber this morning in the middle of a vote.
He headed over to the "Murtha" corner to visit with the Pennsylvania delegation. Rep. Jack Murtha, the dean of delegation, is a Clinton man, but Keystone state buddies Mike Doyle, Paul E. Kanjorski, Jason Altmire and Robert Brady remain uncommitted. Obama yucked it up with all of them, including Armed Services Chairman Ike Skelton of Missouri, another Clinton backer and Murtha friend.
The senator's escorts included Illinois Rep. Jan Schakowsky and Steven Rothman (N.J.), an early defector from a pro-Clinton state, who hovered nearby for the entire 40-minute session, whispering names into Obama's ear and beaming proudly. Rep. Ellen Tauscher (Calif.), a Clinton supporter, waited her turn to extend a warm handshake. Uncommitted Rep. Bart Stupak (Mich.) got a few minutes of quality schmooze time. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer bowed gallantly and gave Obama a big hug. The Maryland Democrat is neutral -- officially at least.
Republicans lined up, too: David Dreier (Calif.), Jerry Lewis (Calif.), Dana Rohrabacher (Calif.), and Roscoe Bartlett (Md.). Rep. Judy Biggert, from Obama's home state of Illinois, tapped him on the shoulder to say hi. Wyoming Rep. Barbara Cubin congratulated Obama and spoke to him briefly. While Obama was making his way to pro-Clinton Energy and Commerce Chairman John Dingell (Mich.), Rep. Heath Shuler (N.C.) brushed by quickly, looking in the other direction. Although Obama won his state big, Shuler said yesterday that he would back the person who carried his conservative district -- Clinton.
(A Shuler spokesman later called to explain that the congressman had greeted Obama earlier, when he walked onto the floor, and that the two had a "cordial chat." The spokesman stressed that Shuler's announcement yesterday didn't constitute an endorsement of Clinton -- just a commitment to vote for her at the convention, if it ever came to that.)
Eventually, Obama escaped, only to be greeted by around 100 congressional pages waiting in the hallway for a group photo with the Democratic front-runner. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) shrugged off the fuss, noting that "senators come to our floor all the time. Some attract more attention than others. I'm sure if Senator Clinton came, she would attract a great deal of attention as well."
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