Politics & Government

N. Carolina superdelegates deny they're endorsing Obama

WASHINGTON — Several of North Carolina's Democratic congressmen on Monday disputed claims that all seven would soon endorse Sen. Barack Obama for president.

"The congressman is not endorsing this week," said LuAnn Canipe, a spokeswoman for Rep. Brad Miller of Raleigh. "There's no imminent decision. He is still deliberating."

Joanne Peters, a spokeswoman for Rep. Bob Etheridge of Lillington, said he has no plans to announce a preference between Obama and Sen. Hillary Clinton.

Rep. Heath Shuler of Waynesville remains neutral and Rep. Mike McIntyre of Lumberton won't endorse before the primary, spokesmen said.

Still, a couple of pronouncements may be imminent.

Rep. Mel Watt of Charlotte has said he plans to announce his choice before the state's May 6 primary.

And Rep. David Price of Chapel Hill "may or may not" reveal whom he supports, his spokesman Paul Cox said.

"He's considering making his preference known before the primary," he said. "Just as all North Carolinians, he's watching the campaign closely. We've got over a month before the primary ... there's no rush to do so."

In a story Monday, The Wall Street Journal cited anonymous sources to say all seven planned to endorse Obama.

The endorsements are important because the congressmen are superdelegates. The outcome of the Democratic nominating process appears to hinge on the votes of superdelegates, who can back whomever they choose. Neither candidate will receive enough pledged delegates in primaries and caucuses to secure the nomination.

Rep. G.K. Butterfield of Wilson, the only N.C. congressman to endorse Obama so far, said he and the campaign have been wooing the others.

"I'm confident that at the end of the process there will be others that will join the Obama team, if not before the primary, before the conventions certainly," he said.

"No one has said to me, `I'm going to support Sen. Clinton,' " Butterfield added.

Obama's campaign said it was still working on the lawmakers.

"Despite the Wall Street Journal's optimism, none of them has ... told our campaign that they are ready to announce their endorsement of Senator Obama — so we'll keep working on it," a statement from the Obama campaign said.

Clinton spokesman Isaac Baker said the Wall Street Journal report was "simply not true."

"My hope is that the Obama campaign is not starting rumors of this to persuade superdelegates and other undecided voters to support the campaign," he said.

Baker's comments came during a conference call with Charlotte Mayor Pro Tem Susan Burgess. Reacting to recent calls from some prominent Democrats for Clinton to step aside, they suggested N.C. voters are in danger of being "disenfranchised."

"Those encouraging Sen. Clinton to withdraw are definitely disenfranchising the voters of North Carolina," Burgess said. "We deserve the opportunity to have our voices heard."

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