First Come, First Serve

By Michael Elmore

Feb 5, 2008 6:06pm

ABC News’ Jacqueline Klingebiel and Mike Elmore Report: It’s not an easy job being a Democratic ‘superdelegate,’ especially not in this year’s Democratic presidential nomination race — one that could be the closest in presidential primary in history.

For months now, all eyes have been on the 796 Democratic ‘superdelegates’ who get to act as free agents, able to select any candidate they wish, in the race towards the Democratic nomination. Super delegates make up a fifth of the 4049 total delegates on the Democratic side, potentially becoming the ultimate deciders in a tight race. (Pledged delegates account for the other four-fifths allocated at the will of the voters and assigned proportionally based on the outcomes of state races.)

Superdelegates are typically Democratic members of Congress, governors, former Democratic presidents, as well as state and national party leaders.

Over the course of the race, ABC News has (repeatedly) called all of the superdelegates to track their candidate endorsements and to get a feel for what it is like to have the campaigns of Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., and Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., actively seeking their support.

As an undecided super delegate, it is likely that you have received a personal phone call from former Sen.Tom Daschle, D-S.D., campaigning for Obama, or former First Daughter Chelsea Clinton (if not former president Bill Clinton himself) asking for your support.

He’d originally endorsed Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C., but after Edwards withdrew from the race this is exactly the kind of personal attention superdelegate Vince Powers, a Nebraska-based DNC official, experienced first hand. Powers received a call from Bill Clinton minutes before Edwards delivered his official farewell speech last Wednesday.

When the former president called Powers on behalf of the Clinton campaign to ask for his endorsement, Powers kindly notified Pres. Clinton that he would not endorse another candidate unless they personally visited the Cornhusker State.

"We’re not asking for much, we don’t get much help from the national party. We are starved out here. I want a generation that says they remember when Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama campaigned out here."

With both Democratic nominees in a fierce coast-to-coast battle trying to woo voters on tight schedules, Nebraska receives almost no attention outside of the rare press availability or fund raising event at the airport during a layover. One reason for the lack of attention is the number of delegates Nebraska offers at the party’s national convention in August: 31.  A far smaller number than delegate-rich states like the Super Tuesday contests in New York (281) or California (441), or even Ohio (161) and Texas (228) who will cast their ballots on March 4.

"On a scale of 1 to 100, my leverage is a 2," Powers acknowledged.

But Powers says even a little Nebraska-focus from a presidential candidate would do wonders for increasing voter registration and attracting new members to the party. He mentioned that if one of the candidates held an event at the University of Nebraska, he could guarantee massive crowds.  Powers seeks to inspire a new generation of Democrats.

"The generation that was inspired by Bobby Kennedy has too much grey hair."

So we asked him, if Bill Clinton were to visit the state, would he then endorse his wife, Hillary Clinton?

Powers: "No."

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