Thursday, May 01, 2008

Key superdelegate switches to Obama

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Hillary is expected to pick up the endorsement of John Olsen, the head of the Connecticut AFL-CIO, but the bigger story today is coming out of Indiana:

A leader of the Democratic Party under Bill Clinton has switched his allegiance to Barack Obama and is encouraging fellow Democrats to "heal the rift in our party" and unite behind the Illinois senator.

Joe Andrew, who was Democratic National Committee chairman from 1999-2001, planned a news conference Thursday in his hometown of Indianapolis to urge other Hoosiers to support Obama in Tuesday's primary, perhaps the most important contest left in the White House race. He also has written a lengthy letter explaining his decision that he plans to send to other superdelegates.

"I am convinced that the primary process has devolved to the point that it's now bad for the Democratic Party," Andrew said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.

Bill Clinton appointed Andrew chairman of the DNC near the end of his presidency, and Andrew endorsed Hillary Rodham Clinton last year on the day she declared her candidacy for the White House.

A superdelegate is a superdelegate, but this is a major pick-up for Obama:

-- Like Bill Richardson and Robert Reich, Andrew is a former Clinton appointee and friend of the Clintons.

-- He didn't just endorse Obama today, he switched his allegiance from Hillary to Obama.

-- As a former DNC chair, he is an influential figure in the party who could sway other superdelegates.

-- He's from Indiana, a rather important state at the moment. Senator Bayh, who supports Hillary, is the most significant Indiana superdelegate, but this (very public) endorsement is hardly insignificant.

-- He has made a point of arguing today that Obama has performed well during a difficult and challenging time: Wrightgate, the gas tax silliness, etc. On CNN a short while ago, he said that Obama has the "mettle" to be president.

Endorsements aside, though, we'll see what happens on Tuesday.


Update 1: According to Lynn Sweet of the Chicago Sun-Times, Obama is also set to pick up three Illinois superdelegates: Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, Illinois House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie, and Cook County Board President Todd Stroger.


Update 2: Read Joe Andrew at HuffPo on why he switched: "I have been inspired... We need a candidate who will re-invigorate the economy and keep good jobs here in America. We need a candidate who will end the war in Iraq. We need a candidate who will provide health coverage for our 45 million uninsured neighbors. We need a candidate who will end our addiction to high-priced foreign oil by investing in renewable energy here at home. That candidate is Barack Obama."

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