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Superdelegates gear up for DNC

U.S. Rep. George Butterfield, D-N.C., will get to vote twice before November: once during North Carolina's May 6 primary with the rest of state's Democratic voters and again in August at the Democratic National Convention.

With a close run between Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama for the Democratic presidential nomination, it may come down to Butterfield and North Carolina's 18 other Democratic superdelegates to help choose the party's candidate.

Currently, neither Clinton nor Obama has the required number of delegates to clinch the majority, leading many to speculate that the superdelegate vote will be crucial in the election.

Of North Carolina's 19, only one has committed to Clinton, with four supporting the Obama campaign. Twelve of the remaining delegates remain uncommitted and two will be named at the state convention.

Nationally, Clinton is leading Obama in the superdelegate count with 250 delegates to his 213, according to The Associated Press. In the normal delegate count, Obama leads 1,404 to 1,249 as of Wednesday.

Butterfield, who has announced his intent to support Obama, said in past elections presidential hopefuls have not wooed superdelegates, but said he has been contacted by Obama multiple times since he began campaigning.

"I've talked with Obama on six occasions-three in person and three on the phone-since he announced," he wrote in an e-mail. "It's provided me the opportunity to better understand him and his campaign, and it did play a role in my decision."

He said Clinton had not contacted him.

Rep. Brad Miller, D-N.C. and a superdelegate, said superdelegates will be a major determining factor in the nomination if neither candidate can garner the required 2,024 delegates solely from the primary vote.

He added that he has been contacted by both campaigns in recent months but noted that if he does choose to endorse a candidate before the convention, he will make his decision after the North Carolina primary.

Although rumors have circulated about candidates wining and dining superdelegates, Miller said he has not been taken out for dinner or drinks or personally wooed by either candidate like other superdelegates. However, he added that the candidates' supporters in the capital often seek him out to speak with him.

Miller said his decision will not be based on who has contacted him and that he will instead cast his vote for who he believes will be able to best run their campaign and how well each candidate is received by voters in North Carolina.

"I think most superdelegates would prefer there to be a clear result and not be in this position," he said.

The superdelegate system was implemented before the 1984 election, but some have questioned the power the delegates wield in close elections like that which the Democratic Party now faces.

"I think that's a matter for each citizen to pass judgment on: whether having superdelegates is undemocratic or [not]," said David Rohde, Ernestine Friedl professor of political science.

He added that one of the main purposes of giving superdelegates an independent vote is to provide the party with a more united front going into the general election.

"They haven't really mattered in the past," Rohde said. "Nobody really had to pay attention to them or woo them like they may be doing now."


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