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Obama overtakes Clinton in battle for superdelegates

world Updated: May 11, 2008 08:36 IST

AFP
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Barack Obama surpassed Hillary Clinton for the first time on Saturday in the fight for the all-important superdelegates whose votes will be decisive in choosing the Democratic party's White House nominee.

At least three Democratic superdelegates pledged to back the African-American senator -- one of them formerly in Clinton's column -- marking a new milestone in his quest to represent the party in November's presidential election.

With Clinton gaining one new endorsement, Obama's total reached 274 to her 271.

It marked a rapid change of fortune for Clinton, who though trailing Obama in the committed delegates from the primaries had maintained a solid lead in superdelegates -- a select group of 795 of the party elite who cast votes for whomever they choose in the nominating contest.

And while neither candidate was acting overtly as if the race was over -- Obama was pitching for votes on Saturday in Oregon ahead of its May 20 primary, while Clinton held a Mothers Day fund-raising event in New York -- the writing appeared on the wall for the former first lady.

"Despite what some in the media are saying, this race is not over," Clinton reportedly told her superdelegate supporters in a conference call on Saturday, according to a TalkingPointsMemo reporter who listened in to the call.

The new endorsements marked a clear reversal of fortune for Clinton, a New York senator and wife of former president Bill Clinton, who is seeking to become the first woman US president.

In early February, she had 90 more superdelegates in her corner than Obama, and although he slowly chipped away at her lead, just a week ago she was still ahead by 17.

But his convincing win in North Carolina and their photo-finish in Indiana on Tuesday left him with an unassailable lead in pledged delegates and opened the floodgates for superdelegates to flock to his side.

"I'm proud to support Barack Obama for president," Arizona House of Representatives member Harry Mitchell said in Chicago.

"Like the primary voters of my congressional district ... I am inspired by Barack's vision for America, his ability to unify our country and bring much-needed to change to Washington," added the Democrat, one of at least 10 superdelegates announcing their backing for Obama since Friday.