Two of Utah Democrats' so-called superdelegates haven't revealed whom they intend to support for president.
And that makes Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, and state Democratic Party chairman Wayne Holland marked men as Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama scratch and claw for every last delegate.
Matheson isn't in a hurry to choose between the two candidates.
No matter. He has six months before the Democratic National Convention, where uncommitted delegates or superdelegates might decide the nominee for the first time. Mostly party officials and officeholders, superdelegates can vote for whomever they want.
"I think I'm in a very interesting position," Matheson said, adding he has the opportunity to engage both candidates in discussions about issues of concern to him, such as nuclear weapons testing and nuclear waste storage at Yucca Mountain.
Holland said he has a definite opinion at this point but doesn't plan to reveal his choice until the party's push to recruit candidates for offices statewide wraps up. He said he doesn't want his decision to turn off any potential office seekers.
"I think it will probably not be any different than what my conscience tells me," he said.
Holland did note that it's "pretty well established" that state party chairmen follow the dictates of primaries and caucuses. Obama bested Clinton in Utah with 57 percent of the Feb. 5 primary vote.
Utah Democrats have 29 delegates to the national convention. Obama secured 14 in the primary, while Clinton won nine. The remaining six are superdelegates.
Democratic National Committee members Karen Hale, a former state senator, and Helen Langan pledged support for Clinton, while former congressman Bill Orton backs Obama.
The sixth superdelegate will be named at the state Democratic Party convention in May.
Clinton, a U.S. senator from New York, and Obama, a U.S. senator from Illinois, continue to be in a tight race for the 2,025 delegates needed to win the Democratic nomination. Obama extended his lead this past week after winning his 11th consecutive primary. He now has 1,361 delegates to Clinton's 1,267, according to the Associated Press.
Should neither candidate reach the magic number prior to the August convention in Denver, the 796 superdelegates could decide the whole show.
As Obama continues to rack up primary victories, some superdelegates are rethinking their endorsements. Clinton still leads among superdelegates 241 to 181, according to the AP. But Obama has chipped into her once-sizable lead as Clinton recently suffered some high-profile defections. His total is up 25 superdelegates the past two weeks, while hers is down two.
There are nearly 800 Democratic superdelegates, making them an important force in a nomination race as close as this one.
The Obama and Clinton camps are furiously courting superdelegates through e-mail, telephone calls and personal pleas. Holland said both campaigns have wooed him, while Matheson said he "really hasn't been approached by anybody."
Matheson skipped the 2004 national convention to campaign for re-election and because the nominee (John Kerry) was already decided. He said he'll attend this year "if the convention has meaning."
Unique to the Democratic Party, superdelegates include national and local party leaders, senators, representatives and governors. Their votes aren't bound to party primary or caucus results. Many endorse a candidate before the convention but are free to change their minds. Others arrive undecided or uncommitted. Superdelegates make up about 20 percent of the total delegates.
"There's zero chance that superdelegates will buck what primaries and caucuses have done," Holland said.Not necessarily. High-profile superdelegates Sens. Ted Kennedy and John Kerry, both of Massachusetts, support Obama even though Clinton won their state's primary.
Contributing: Stephen Ohlemacher, Associated Press E-mail: [email protected]
E-mail: [email protected]