The Supers Speak

Two superdelegates from each camp ponder the end of the Clinton-Obama fight, the running mate pick and the Clintons' future.

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The Democratic nomination process is apparently over. Thank goodness. It is now up to the superdelegates to seal the deal. In recent days, four black superdelegates—two supporters of Sen. Barack Obama and two of Sen. Hillary Clinton—discussed the tortuous primary campaign and what should happen after today's contests in Montana and South Dakota.

Clinton endorsers Joel Ferguson and Yolanda Caraway, and Obama backers Marianne Spraggins and Joyce Brayboy, are not household names. But as four of the 849 DNC superdelegates to this year's nominating convention, they have seen their status exalted by the close, hotly-contested race between two talented candidates. All four have played roles behind the scenes, and all four have been subject to intense efforts to get them to switch their commitments.

Close political observers expect an onslaught of endorsements from undeclared superdelegates for Obama after today's contests. But it's difficult to predict what will happen beyond that. Much about the party's nominating process is confusing and steeped in arcane rules and procedures that have remained mysterious to many until this year's highly competitive contests. "Even a lot of us don't understand all of it," Clinton supporter Caraway said recently.

One DNC press official had to check more than once to be sure of the constantly shifting number of superdelegates (849…but they only have a total of 824.5 votes because of the Michigan/Florida compromise reached on Saturday that gives delegates from those two states only half a vote. I told you it was complicated). The same party official said the party had no reliable racial and gender data on the group, which includes elected officials, party activists and DNC members. That seems unlikely given the obsession with race and gender in politics.

Ferguson, Caraway, Spraggins and Brayboy, while well aware of the role race and gender has played in the race, said they each decided on whom to support based on more important issues, such as leadership and experience.

"I publicly pledged my support to Sen. Obama before the Texas and Ohio primaries…" said Brayboy, a D.C.-based lobbyist and political consultant. "I believe that Sen. Obama's vision for America's future is what is needed at this particular time."

Ferguson and Caraway have been friends for decades having worked together on the Rev. Jesse Jackson's second presidential campaign in 1988. Both first joined the DNC as part of a compromise negotiated between Jackson and the 1988 nominee Michael Dukakis; Jackson conceded, allowing Dukakis to finally claim the nomination and Jackson was allowed to nominate a number of people to the committee. Ferguson and Caraway were among the first.

They agree that Clinton should not be pressured to leave the race until she's ready, whether that is tonight, tomorrow or some later time. Indeed, Ferguson, 69, a prominent businessman in Lansing, Mich., doesn't think she should get out at all. "I think the whole thing should go to the convention, anyway. I have no problem going to a convention that's really a convention. I think we've got to elect the most electable person."

Caraway, who is my colleague at the Washington, D.C. public relations firm, The Caraway Group, is more conflicted, balancing a desire to see Clinton fight on with the strong belief that Democrats need to turn their attention toward the general election battle with John McCain.

"Historically, if you've got a substantive number of delegates, you go to the convention," said Caraway, 57. "If it were two white men in the race and it was like this, do you think one of them would drop out? Do you think if the situation was reversed and Obama was second and it was this close that he would drop out?"