Neck and Neck, Democrats Woo Superdelegates





Seeing a good possibility that the Democratic presidential nomination will not be settled in the primaries and caucuses, Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama are lavishing attention on a group that might hold the balance of power: elected officials and party leaders who could decide the outcome at the convention in August....

Should they ratify the decision by regular delegates and vote for the candidate who is ahead in June, no matter how small the lead? Are they obligated to follow the vote of their constituents in primaries or caucuses? Or should they simply follow their conscience and vote for whoever they think is the best nominee?

Superdelegates, created in 1982, were intended to restore some of the power over the nomination process to party insiders, tempering the zeal of party activists. About 15 to 20 percent of the delegates at Democratic conventions are superdelegates.

In the close race for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1984, superdelegates overwhelmingly supported Walter F. Mondale, helping to secure his defeat of Gary Hart. This year, the competition is more intense, and the superdelegates’ support more evenly divided.

Mr. Obama, talking to reporters in Seattle on Friday, said he believed superdelegates should follow the will of the voters.




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