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Party Unification Begins with Mich. Superdelegate Endorsements

Democratic National Committeewoman Debbie Dingell, wife of Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) speaks at a United Auto Workers hall in Detroit, Jan. 12, 2008. (The Washington Post)

Updated 7:00 p.m.
By Jonathan Weisman
Debbie Dingell -- Washington doyenne, General Motors powerhouse and the wife of House Energy and Commerce Chairman and Hillary Clinton supporter John Dingell -- endorsed Barack Obama today, the clearest sign yet that the long-awaited flood of superdelegate endorsements is coming.

Dingell's endorsement came along with that of another Michigan Democratic National Committee member and superdelegate, Rick Wiener. They followed nods from House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) and Congressional Black Caucus Chairwoman Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick (D-Mich.), Rep. John Olver (D-Mass.) and two other superdelegates.

On a conference call announcing his own endorsement, Rep. James Clyburn named three more undecided officials who, he says, will endorse Obama today: Rep. John Spratt of South Carolina, New York superdelegate Ralph Dawson and Tim Moore, a South Carolina John Edwards delegate.

But of all of those, Dingell may be the bellwether. She helped formulate the plan for Michigan to hold a revote this month, a plan that ultimately collapsed, in large part due to foot-dragging by the Obama camp. Her husband, the dean of the House, is one of Clinton's highest-profile supporters in Michigan. But on a day when General Motors announced massive plant closings, Dingell said it was time to end the nomination fight and get to the issues.

"This really is about unity," she said in an interview. "It was hard, but there's just too much at stake for the November election. We cannot afford another eight years."

Michigan will be tough for Obama. The state's economy is in crisis, usually a plus for Democrats. But Michigan's Democratic governor, Jennifer Granholm, is absorbing much of the voters' blame. The mayor of Detroit faces indictment and possible removal from office. Race may be a factor in a state where affirmative action took a blow in a referendum two years ago. And Obama has spent the better part of a year bragging that he confronted the auto industry on its own turf, in Detroit, challenging auto makers to emphasize fuel efficiency.

"People want to make this about racism or sexism," Dingell said, "but what it's got to be about is the economy, what's happened in the last eight years and where we are going from here."

Mrs. Dingell's partner in crafting the Michigan primary, Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), is still keeping his endorsement powder dry, however. Levin told reporters in the Capitol that he's still trying to get the Michigan delegation fully seated at the convention and that an endorsement of Obama now might seem as if he were trying to use his super-delegate vote as a carrot to win the fight for his home state.

"I've got to complete that fight before I take a position," he said.

This item has been corrected to reflect that Rep. Olver is from Mass., not Mich.

By Web Politics Editor  |  June 3, 2008; 12:49 PM ET
Categories:  B_Blog , Barack Obama  
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