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How to end the Hillary Clinton/Barack Obama standoff

March 26, 2008 |  9:20 am

While some party leaders keep counseling caution, at least a few Democratic superdelegates are getting antsy about the prolonged nature of their party's presidential race and going public with their concerns -- as well as offering suggestions for untying the knot that seems to be growing more tangled.

One of those is Edward Espinoza, 35, of Long Beach, a member of the Democratic National Committee. He was blunt in a recent conversation with Times' reporter Peter Nicholas, saying that if the contest between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton lasts through the Democratic National Convention in late August, it would be “devastating’’ for the party.

Espinoza has settled on the date he thinks the battle needs to come to an end -- Memorial Day, May 26.

At that point, if none of the remaining primaries between now and then has established either Clinton or Obama as the obvious frontrunner (which seems unlikely) and neither has dropped out (even more unlikely), the superdelegates need to “put our weight behind someone’’ to determine the nominee, he said.

“There will come a time when we need to step in and bring some closure to it," said Espinoza, a political and public relations strategist who had backed Bill Richardson but now is uncommitted.

He added: “We don’t just have an opportunity to put an end to it; we have an obligation to put an end to it."

Espinoza's focus on Memorial Day ...

seems a bit arbitrary -- and won't be welcomed by Democrats living in Puerto Rico (which has a June 1 primary) and Montana and South Dakota (where the primary season wraps up on June 3).

But we suspect he is giving voice to a growing restiveness among superdelegates -- an attitude being promoted most obviously by Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen.

Bredesen, who like Espinoza is uncommitted, appeared on MSNBC today to push his call for a quasi-convention of superdelegates in June (after the Montana and South Dakota votes) to settle "a problem we didn't expect as a party" -- i.e., that the primaries would prove non-conclusive.

Given that this means the superdelegates will have to tip the balance anyway, Bredesen argues that it's better for for these party honchos to "get out of the backroom mode" and play out the endgame in a public setting -- sooner rather than later.

"Let's get this over with," he said this morning. "Let's not have a summer of recriminations."

-- Don Frederick

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