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Superdelegate watch: 3 states are key for Hillary Clinton

March 17, 2008 |  6:30 am

The hard-working folks at the National Journal's Hotline not only are keeping an overall tally of superdelegate preferences in the Democratic presidential race, they've started providing a state-by-state breakdown. And perusing it shows that Hillary Clinton's lead among these potential nominee-makers is simple to account for.

It rests on three states: New York (which she represents as a U.S. senator), Arkansas (where her husband reigned for so long as the preeminent political figure) and California (where over the years both Clintons cultivated strong bonds among Democratic officials).

The most recent Hotline tabulation found that among 795 superdelegates who are free agents when it comes to casting a convention vote for the nomination, Clinton is backed by 246, Obama by 199.5, with 349.5 still up for grabs.

Clinton's 46.5 superdelegate edge, not surprisingly, is based first and foremost on the institutional support she enjoys in New York. According to Hotline, 41 of the state's superdelegates are in her camp, compared with just one for Obama (eight remain undeclared).

This 40-vote margin for her in New York becomes 50 with Arkansas is factored in. Hotline reported that ...

10 of the state's superdelegates are in corner (Obama has none, 2 are undeclared).

Obama counters the Clinton backing emanating from those two states with his own home-court advantage. Among Illinois' superdelegates, according to Hotline, 19 back Obama, while just one is for Clinton (11 are undeclared).

California comes to Clinton's rescue to boost her lead to roughly its current level. The Hotline tally showed her favored by 28 of the state's superdelegates, with 11 for Obama and 28 undeclared.

Bottom line: Take away their respective home states (Clinton benefits from, in essence, having two) and California, and the two candidates are virtually tied, at the moment, in the chase for superdelegates.

The Hotline figures also underscore the advantage Clinton has in Pennsylvania's April 22 primary -- 13 of that state's superdelegates have opted for her, compared with four for Obama (12 are undeclared).

-- Don Frederick