Final Ct. superdelegate backs Obama

June 2, 2008 4:46:11 AM PDT
Connecticut's last uncommitted superdelegate in the battle for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination says she's backing Barack Obama. Nancy DiNardo, chairwoman of the state Democratic Party, has held back her endorsement for months, saying she wanted to wait until the primaries were over.

"It's pretty close to the end now," she told The Associated Press.

Hillary Rodham Clinton won the Puerto Rico primary on Sunday and Montana and South Dakota end the primary season with races on Tuesday.

On Saturday, a committee of the Democratic National Committee gave each Michigan and Florida delegate a half vote at the national convention to resolve a dispute over early primaries in the two states. The compromise did no harm to Obama's near-lock on the nomination, but prompted new threats from Clinton's campaign to carry the fight to the August convention.

DiNardo said Clinton has the right to continue the battle, but she hopes "everything can be resolved before the convention."

She said she's not convinced it's over for the New York senator.

"I would not count Senator Clinton out," DiNardo said. "She has shown that she's a strong fighter and a great candidate."

However, top officials of Obama's campaign have said in recent days they believe enough superdelegates are poised to quickly endorse him and deliver the nomination. Obama leads Clinton in pledged delegates and is very close to the number needed to clinch the nomination.

For weeks, DiNardo has fielded phone calls from both candidates' high-profile surrogates, including Obama supporter and rock star Melissa Etheridge, and Clinton supporter and former Secretary of State Madeline Albright. She also has received hundreds of e-mails from Democrats across the country, urging her to commit to Clinton or Obama.

"I have to say, all of them were very respectful," said DiNardo, who acknowledged that her decision was not easy. She spoke to Obama late Friday night about her decision and spent the weekend contacting other Democrats.

DiNardo is the 10th Connecticut superdelegate to back Obama. Others include Sen. Christopher Dodd and Reps. Joe Courtney, Rosa DeLauro, John Larson and Chris Murphy. Clinton, who has the backing of two Connecticut superdelegates, including former state Democratic Party Chairman John Olsen, lost to Obama in Connecticut's Feb. 5 Democratic primary.

Connecticut's 12 superdelegates may support any candidate of their choice at the national convention.

Despite the division in the party over the two candidates, DiNardo said she believes Democrats will rally around the nominee and defeat Sen. John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, in November.

"When the two candidates come together, the people will come together too," DiNardo said.