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Obama Pushes Superdelegates to Declare Support

The recent endorsements of Sen. Barack Obama's presidential campaign by freshmen Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Bob Casey, Jr. (D-Pa.), as well as the rumored support for the Illinois Senator by the entire North Carolina Democratic House delegation, represent a new stage in the protracted fight for the Democratic nomination as Obama's campaign seeks to draw out its superdelegate support in hopes of bringing an end to the race.

Klobuchar made clear in her endorsement of Obama -- announced a on a conference call this morning with Obama campaign manager David Plouffe -- that she had been leaning his way since her state's Feb. 5 caucuses, which were won overwhelmingly by Obama.

"For me, I had really after our caucuses started to know which way I was headed but out of respect for both candidates I had delayed that," she said.

It's not hard to read between the lines in that statement; Klobuchar had likely made clear to Obama more than a month ago that she would be for him but held off in hopes that the race would resolve itself before she came out for Barack. She said as much on the call, noting that she had hoped "there was a time I could come in where I could bring our party together."

Klobuchar's endorsement comes just days after Casey made his endorsement of Obama official and less than a week after Sens. Pat Leahy (Vt.) and Chris Dodd (Conn.), both Obama supporters, made public statements that Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) should drop from the contest for the good of the party.

The string of endorsements -- and statements about the future (or lack thereof) in the race for Clinton -- also come as Obama himself has adopted a more "magnanimous" approach to his rival, according to the Post's own Shailagh Murray who is traveling with the Illinois Senator.

"The magnanimous approach is a stark contrast to the growing frustration expressed by Obama supporters like Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, who are eager for Clinton the quit the race, so the party can pivot to general election mode," writes Murray. "But it could make it easier for Obama to mend fences with Clinton supporters, when and if he becomes the nominee." (Klobuchar echoed this newfound magnanimity on the call; "I believe that Senator Clinton has every right to continue her campaign," said Klobuchar. "I don't agree with those who have said things to the contrary.")

Obama's change in approach is as much about superdelegates as it is about voters in the remaining ten contests, however. While voters tend not to follow these sorts of process arguments all that closely, it is part of the daily diet for every superdelegate. The biggest concern for these elected officials and party leaders who comprise the superdelegate pool is that the Obama-Clinton tussle will tear the party apart, making it more difficult for them to either get re-elected or make gains in their respective states.

By appearing as magnanimous as possible toward Clinton, Obama is seeking to reassure these superdelegates that everything is going to be all right in the end. Meanwhile, his campaign in exerting ramped up pressure behind the scenes for superdelegates who are with Obama privately to be with him publicly.

This private-public strategy is an acknowledgment by the Obama campaign that the only way this race will end is if a clear majority of the remaining superdelegates come out against Clinton between now and June 3. Short of that, Clinton will win enough states -- Pennsylvania, Kentucky, West Virginia, Puerto Rico and, potentially, Indiana -- to keep her in the game.

By Chris Cillizza  |  March 31, 2008; 11:53 AM ET
Categories:  Eye on 2008  
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