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A Superdelegate Sticks with Clinton in an Obama State

Tim Craig

Virginia Democrats overwhelmingly prefer Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) for president, as his 28-point victory this week over Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) showed.

But one state lawmaker from Richmond who will have a vote at the Democratic National Convention in the influential group of party leaders known as superdelegates said today she's unlikely to abandon her support of Clinton.

Del. Jennifer L. McClellan said in an interview she is hoping that either Obama or Clinton have a clear advantage among regular, or pledged, delegates so the unpledged superdelegates won't have to decide the nominee. But if her vote matters, McClellan said she will likely stick with Clinton.

"I still think she is the best candidate and I believe in her. I believe she will be the best candidate. I can't ignore that," said McClellan, who sits on the Democratic National Committee and who endorsed Clinton last year. "I made a commitment. Nothing has happened to change my mind....I struggled long and hard over who to endorse, and I take my commitments very seriously and it won't just change based on one vote."

McClellan said she owes her start in politics to Clinton, who invited her to sit with her at a presidential debate in 1992 at the University of Richmond. "That opened the door to Virginia politics and led me to the path where I am today."

McClellan, an African American often mentioned as a future statewide candidate, could be taking a political risk if her vote and the votes of other superdelegates give Clinton the nomination. Obama won 79 percent of the vote in the city of Richmond. Black leaders also say Virginia's African Americans, nine out of every 10 of whom voted for Obama, are very enthusiastic about the prospect of having the first black president.

If she were to run for statewide office, McClellan may have to explain her support for Clinton to a Democratic primary electorate that overwhelmingly rejected the former first lady on Tuesday. In addition, Gov. Timothy M. Kaine is one of Obama's biggest backers.

But McClellan said her future political options will not factor in her decision at the Democratic convention in Denver.

"I am doing this based on who I think is the best candidate to be president. I am not doing this for any personal gain. I am going to follow what my head and my heart tells me is the right thing to do," McClellan said. "I don't care if I am considered as a statewide candidate. I have to do what I think is right. If that means I ultimately vote for Senator Clinton. I am at peace with that. If I vote for Senator Obama. I am at peace with that.."

By Tim Craig  |  February 14, 2008; 12:27 PM ET
Categories:  Tim Craig  
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Comments

As the person who introduced Sen. Clinton to the Jefferson Jackson Dinner audience, McClellan switching to Obama would be covered by the press as 'jumping ship' and 'a major blow to the Clinton campaign.'

Tim, I'm disappointed that you're trying to pigeonhole her right now. It's been only two days since the primary and there are still more than six months to go until the Democrat's Convention.

Posted by: NoVA | February 14, 2008 2:58 PM | Report abuse

As the person who introduced Sen. Clinton to the Jefferson Jackson Dinner audience, McClellan switching to Obama would be covered by the press as 'jumping ship' and 'a major blow to the Clinton campaign.'

She's going to do that to Sen. Clinton just two days after the primary, if ever.

Tim, I'm disappointed that you're trying to pigeonhole her right now. There are still more than six months to go until the Democrat's Convention.

Posted by: NoVA | February 14, 2008 3:10 PM | Report abuse

"Super" Delegates (there designation, not mine) who ignore the voice of their constituents must be remebered at their election time

Posted by: Benny | February 15, 2008 11:41 AM | Report abuse

Your methods of commitment are ante-deluvian. If you do not support the winner of the popular vote, you will forever lose my support of you and possibly of the causes you support. I don't give a hoot whom you supported months ago. After all, how could you know then what we know now? Times change and I expect you to respond to those changes. This whole system of super-delegates is going to change some day, as, I fervently hope, so will the electoral college system. Please share this message with the other so-called super delegates from VA. You have no idea what an incendiary issue this is in the present election. The electorate is just sick and tired of the political system as it exists now. If, in the end, it turns out that we have made a mistake in our choice, then it is ours to deal with. Your duty is to represent the citizens of VA as they have expressed themselves in the primary. Thank you.

Posted by: DIANE D MORAN, Prof, Emerita | February 15, 2008 3:42 PM | Report abuse

Prof, come down out of your ivory tower. Other than in elections in which only super-dedicated Dems come out, do you really think most folks even pay attention to this sort of thing? I can tell you, I'm a Dem who votes in all primaries, and elections, and this means nothing to me.

Posted by: Fairfax | February 19, 2008 8:22 AM | Report abuse

"Please share this message with the other so-called super delegates from VA. You have no idea what an incendiary issue this is in the present election. The electorate is just sick and tired of the political system as it exists now. If, in the end, it turns out that we have made a mistake in our choice, then it is ours to deal with. Your duty is to represent the citizens of VA as they have expressed themselves in the primary."

All that plus, Antediluvian. Hadn't heard that since the'60s. Donovan wasn't it?

Professor, no need to get your knickers in a knot yet. Fairfax has it right. Most people don't know what the Super Delegate is all about, and don't care. Is it an incendiary issue? It shouldn't be, because it shouldn't really matter until all of the pledged delegates are determined, and that won't be until June 7th. The only reason it appears to be an issue are the "we'll do anything to win" campaign strategists and talking heads, who need something to fill innumerable hours of otherwise dead airtime. Are you that easily led?

The Super Delegate was created to keep the Democratic Party from being hijacked by people with no vested interest in the party, by one time voters (think Perot, Nader, Paul, etc. supporters) and those who cross Party lines in primaries to intentionally sabotage the other party's process.

Super Delegates do not have a duty "to represent the citizens of VA as they have expressed themselves in the primary." They have a duty to represent the Democratic Party as a whole.

Benny, to which constituency would you have a Super Delegate answer? For the sake of discussion, let's say that the Mayor of Richmond is a Super Delegate. Richmond votes for Obama in the primary, but Henrico County votes for Clinton, while the Commonwealth of Virginia votes for Obama. Or, Jim Moran has Alexandria vote for Obama while Arlington votes for Clinton and the rest of the 8th District splits almost 50-50. Which constituency does he "obey?"

Posted by: Anonymous | February 19, 2008 4:58 PM | Report abuse

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