Obama Takes Lead in Superdelegate Tally

Hillary Clinton to meet with major financial backers next week.


May 9, 2008 — -- Sen. Barack Obama moved into the lead today in the last category that Sen. Hillary Clinton had claimed to have an edge -- support among the Democratic Party's superdelegates.

The Illinois Democrat grabbed the superdelegate lead thanks to a switch by New Jersey Rep. Donald Payne and an endorsement from previously uncommitted Rep. Peter DeFazio of Oregon.

Those two votes gave Obama a 267-266 lead over Clinton. That is a huge shift since the days when Clinton boasted about a 60-plus vote lead among the party's pros back on Super Tuesday.

While the New York Democrat is refusing to concede defeat and is hoping a victory in Tuesday's West Virginia primary will keep her dwindling hopes alive, Obama is starting to focus instead on his Republican opponent John McCain.

ABC News' senior political correspondent George Stephanopoulos reported on "Good Morning America" that Obama's team is considering using some of his campaign cash to fund ads against the Arizona senator.

His camp is also planning to announce a 50-state registration rally this weekend, a tactic geared to a November election rather than the remaining Democratic primaries.

The rest of the Democratic Party, however, is struggling with how to end Clinton's challenge and worries that a last-ditch effort by Clinton could be damaging to Obama.

They were particularly unnerved by Clinton's comments earlier this week that appeared to be racially insensitive or racially calculated when she said, "Sen. Obama's support among working, hardworking Americans, white Americans, is weakening again."

"This is exactly the kind of talk that is going to make superdelegates nervous," Stephanopoulos said. "Most of the uncommitted superdelegates and party leaders like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi are willing to forgo pressuring her to get out of the race as long as the rhetoric stays in tact."

Former top Clinton administration aide Leon Panetta told KGO TV in San Francisco, "It's pretty clear unless there's a bolt of lightning, Barack Obama is likely to win the Democratic nomination. She's put up a good fight and put up a good race, but I think there's a time now where she needs to concede and unify the party."

If Clinton decides to fight on, Panetta advised that she "should remain on issues, they shouldn't engage in personal attacks. … Whether the winner wins will depend an awful lot on how the loser loses."

There are indications that Clinton is taking a hard look at her options. She has scheduled a meeting Wednesday -- the day after the West Virginia primary -- with her campaign's major financial backers at her Washington mansion.

Stephanopoulos said there was also "lots of very quiet waltzing behind the scenes with intermediaries representing Sens. Clinton and Obama" to engineer a "dream ticket" with Clinton as Obama's vice president.

"I should say there's an expectation that Sen. Obama is reluctant to go down this road for a host of reasons, but others are making the case this is the most powerful ticket for the Democratic Party," Stephanopoulos reported.

For many Democrats, however, Conan O'Brien had it right.

In discussing the states where the two candidates were favored, the comedian quipped, "Hillary is favored in the state of denial."

ABC News' Karen Travers contributed to this report.

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