Superdelegates fuel Clinton’s narrow lead

Presidential hopeful Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., reacts as she meets supporters Sunday in Manassas, Va. Donnie Biggs, The Associated Press

AP

Presidential hopeful Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., reacts as she meets supporters Sunday in Manassas, Va. Donnie Biggs, The Associated Press

By Stephen Ohlemacher

WASHINGTON – Hillary Rodham Clinton retains her lead among suddenly critical Democratic Party insiders even as Barack Obama builds up his delegate margin with primary and caucus victories across the country, according to a survey by The Associated Press.

Of the 796 lawmakers, governors and party officials who are Democratic superdelegates, Clinton had 243 and Obama had 156. That edge was responsible for Clinton’s overall advantage in the pursuit of delegates to secure the party’s nomination for president. According to the AP’s latest tally, Clinton has 1,135 total delegates and Obama has 1,106, with three delegates still to be awarded from Sunday’s Democratic caucuses in Maine. A candidate must get 2,025 delegates to capture the nomination.

The numbers illustrate not only the remarkable proximity between the two candidates, but also the extraordinary influence superdelegates could wield in determining who becomes the nominee. Both campaigns are aggressively pursuing superdelegates, trumpeting their endorsements the moment they are secured.

“I told my wife I’m probably going to be pretty popular for a couple months,” chuckled Richard Ray, a superdelegate and president of the Georgia chapter of the AFL-CIO.

The national party has named about 720 of the 796 superdelegates. The remainder will be chosen at state party conventions in the spring and summer.

Associated Press writers Christine Simmons, Beth Fouhy, Charles Babington, Jeffrey Gold and Shannon McCaffrey contributed to this report