Defection of key Clinton ally tilts balance to Obama

For all his recent troubles – his resounding loss in Pennsylvania 10 days ago, his inability to crack Hillary Clinton's hold on white, working class voters and, of course, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright chronicles – Barack Obama still seems to be winning the battle that really counts: the one for superdelegates.

Harvesting superdelegates is now more important than ever since they will almost certainly determine who wins the nomination at, or before, the Democratic National Convention in August. And yesterday saw a defection that serves to underline that garnering superdelegates is an area where Mr Obama is still doing surprisingly well.

Joe Andrew, a former leader of the Democratic Party and a native of Indiana, announced he was flipping from Mrs Clinton's side and now supports Mr Obama.

That switch alone should be an important boost to the Obama campaign. Appointed as chairman of the Democratic National Committee in the waning days of Bill Clinton's presidency, Mr Andrew declared his support for Mrs Clinton on the day she announced she was running for president.

But in a letter to party members in Indiana and in media interviews, Mr Andrew said he was jumping the fence because he felt "inspired" by Mr Obama and he urged Indiana voters to join him in the state's primary on Tuesday.

In particular, he cited the manner in which Mr Obama has handled the continuing flap over the Rev. Wright controversy, as well as his refusal to join Mrs Clinton and Republican nominee John McCain in calling for a suspension of the federal tax on petrol on the grounds that it is a political gimmick.

"He has shown such mettle under fire," Mr Andrew said. "The Jeremiah Wright controversy just reconfirmed for me, as the gas tax controversy confirmed for me, that he is the right candidate for our party." He also said that voting for Mrs Clinton, who faces almost insurmountable odds in collecting enough convention delegates actually to win, will only prolong a process that is hurting the party.

"The math[ematics] for this is simple," Mr Andrew told ABC News. "A vote for Hillary Clinton is a vote to continue this process." If Mr Obama can carry both Indiana and North Carolina on Tuesday – he is ahead in the latter but appears to be in a close race in the former – it could be enough to force Mrs Clinton out.

A CBS-New York Times poll offered mixed news for Mr Obama. On the one hand, it showed him leading Mrs Clinton by eight points among Democratic voters nationally, an improvement over early April when the same survey saw him holding only a three-point edge.

But on the other hand, any notion of inevitability for Mr Obama seems to have evaporated. A month ago, 69 per cent of Democrats said they thought the nomination would be his. That number has shrunk to 51 per cent, reflecting the damage done by his recent losses and the Wright saga.

There would be outright panic in the Obama camp if the bumps of recent weeks were translating into a rush of so-far uncommitted superdelegates to Mrs Clinton. But, to date, the opposite seems to be happening. His net gain in superdelegates just yesterday morning: 4. Her net gain: 0.

Mrs Clinton is winning a few, most notably the endorsement of North Carolina Governor Mike Easley earlier this week. But in two months, the most recent estimates show that Mr Obama has halved Mrs Clinton's previously healthy advantage in superdelegate pledges. Moreover, for the first time he has taken the lead over Mrs Clinton among superdelegates who are members of Congress.

For rolling comment on the US election visit: independent.co.uk/campaign08

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Cleaner

£15000 - £16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you've got first class custo...

Recruitment Genius: Mobile Applications Developer / Architect - iOS and Android

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity to join a medium s...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Account Executive - £40K OTE

£11830 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Working in a friendly, sales ta...

Recruitment Genius: Web Designer

£15000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's leading web des...

Day In a Page

Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test
Tour de France 2015: Twins Simon and Adam Yates have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Twins have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Yates brothers will target the steepest sections in bid to win a stage in France
John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy