Posted: May 1, 2008 2:47 PM
Ex-DNC Chair Under President Clinton Defects to Obama
Sen. Barack Obama grabbed another super delegate from Sen. Hillary Clinton’s column Thursday with the endorsement of former Democratic National Committee Chairman Joe Andrew.
“I am convinced that the primary process has devolved to the point that it’s now bad for the Democratic Party,” Andrew told the Associated Press as he urged voters to rally behind the Illinois senator to “heal the rift in our party.”
Andrew was appointed DNC chair under former President Bill Clinton, serving from 1999 to 2001. He was an early supporter of Clinton, endorsing her in November. “Hillary Clinton has the strength and experience to compete and win across this country,” he said last year.
But on Thursday, Andrew said he was switching his vote to Obama and drafted a letter encouraging other super delegates to follow his lead.
“While I was hopeful that a long, contested primary season would invigorate our party, the polls show that that a long, contested primary season would invigorate our party, the polls show that the tone and temperature of the race is now hurting us,” Andrew wrote in the letter. “John McCain, without doing much of anything, is now competitive against both of our issues that really affect all of our lives.”
Clinton spokesman Phil Singer responded that Andrew appears to think the primary has gone on too long.
“To the contrary, this process has resulted in record turnout and registration,” Singer said. “In fact, Oregon is seeing record registration in anticipation of the upcoming primary there.”
Andrew explained that Obama’s handling of the comments made by his former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, and his opposition to a summer gas tax holiday, which both Clinton and McCain support, swayed him away from the Clinton camp.
“He has shown such mettle under fire,” Andrew said in the interview with the AP. “The Jeremiah Wright controversy just reconfirmed for me, just as the gas tax controversy confirmed for me, that he is the right candidate for our party.”
Texas DNC member and super delegate John Patrick, who has belonged to the United Steelworkers Union for 31 years, also endorsed Obama on Thursday, citing the candidate’s work as a community organizer and his opposition to “unfair trade deals” as his reasons.
The Hartford Courant also reported that Connecticut AFL-CIO President John Olsen, a super delegate, is expected to announce Thursday that he’s backing Clinton.
But Obama is expected to trump that with a trio of super delegates from his home state.
As the two candidates remained locked in a race for delegates, the nominee could ultimately be chosen by super delegates as neither candidate will likely mathematically secure the 2,025 delegates needed to win the nomination with the pledged delegates from the remaining primaries.
But the trick for the remaining unpledged super delegates is whether to follow the lead of the overall Democratic popular vote or endorse the candidate of their choice. The latter, some fear, could cause deep rifts within the party.
Obama now leads in the delegate count overall 1732.5 to 1597.5 for Clinton, according to the AP tally. He has narrowed her lead among super delegates to just 19 by picking up eight this week to her three. About 230 super delegates remain undecided, and about 60 more will be selected at state party conventions and meetings in the coming months.