Superdelegate AGs courted by Obama, Clinton camps

By Chris Rizo | May 28, 2008

Terry Goddard (Ariz.)

Catherine Cortez Masto (Nev.)

Jay Nixon (Mo.)

Andrew Cuomo (N.Y.)

WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline)- A small handful of state attorneys general are among the nearly 800 Democratic leaders who will likely decide who will be their party's presidential nominee.

State attorneys general Andrew Cuomo of New York, Terry Goddard of Arizona, Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada and Jay Nixon of Missouri are superdelegates - party leaders and elected officials- who are expectd to be called upon to decide whether Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois or Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York will be at the top of the Democratic ticket.

That is because neither presidential hopeful has won the required 2,026 delegates in the state-by-state nominating contests needed to clinch the party's nomination.

None of the attorneys general but Cuomo has disclosed which candidate they will back; the other attorneys general have said they are weighing the decision closely.

Cuomo has endorsed Clinton, his home state's junior U.S. senator.

Masto political spokeswoman Erin Bilbray said the attorney will "definitely be endorsing" a candidate before the Democratic National Convention in August. Goddard, meanwhile, has not signaled when he might endorse a candidate, spokeswoman Andrea Esquer said. Nixon, who is running for governor, has said he too is remaining on the sidelines for now.

University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato told Legal Newsline that uncommitted superdelegates -- including Goddard, Masto and Nixon -- are surely being actively courted by the Obama and Clinton campaigns and their surrogates.

"They are being called frequently by everyone under the sun: the candidates to their chief supporters and people they work with within the state," Sabato said Wednesday. "The campaigns have people checking their temperature every couple days."

Sabato, the director of the university's Center for Politics, said superdelegates have not played such a public role since the 1984 presidential race, when Walter Mondale won the party's nomination.

Likely a part of the attorneys general consideration is how the candidates faired in their state.

In Arizona, Clinton won 51 percent of the vote on Feb. 5, with Obama in second with 42 percent. Clinton too won Nevada, with 51 percent of the vote, compared to Obama's 45 percent support in the Silver State's Jan. 19 caucuses. In Missouri, Obama narrowly beat Clinton, 49 percent to 48 percent.

Among other state attorneys general who have endorsed Clinton is Martha Coakley of Massachusetts and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut.

Blumenthal, who was elected AG in 1990, said in his endorsement that he has known the New York senator for more than 35 years.

"Hillary has the experience and determination to be a historic leader for our country. Now, more than ever, we need a President ready to lead on Day One and I know that candidate is Hillary Clinton," Blumenthal said.

The Obama campaign did not respond to repeated calls for information on the Illinois senator's attorney general supporters.

From Legal Newsline: Reach reporter Chris Rizo by e-mail at chrisrizo@legalnewsline.com.

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