Nomination battle thrills voters

Jeanne Lemire Dahlman, a Montana super-delegate and rancher, has declared her allegiance to Barack Obama.

Jeanne Lemire Dahlman, a Montana super-delegate and rancher, has declared her allegiance to Barack Obama.

But she said voters in her state, whose primary is June 3, are thrilled by the unresolved Democratic nomination fight, which gives them a potential voice in a nominating process that has usually bypassed them.

"A part of me would like to wrap this up," she acknowledged. "But I think Clinton should continue, unless she tanks in Indiana."

The Pennsylvania primary was supposed to help clarify the picture for the 795 Democratic super-delegates, but Clinton's strong victory there on Tuesday has in many ways complicated matters for them.

It has furthered a stalemate that has deeply divided the party even as top Democrats called this week for them to make up their minds.

The latest New York Times survey of super-delegates - the party leaders and elected officials who essentially have the power to determine the nominee - finds that Clinton holds a 16-delegate edge that slices into Obama's overall lead in delegates.

And the 478 super-delegates who have declared their allegiances show no signs of switching sides as the primary calendar proceeds to its June 3 ending.

Donald L Fowler is a South Carolina super-delegate who supports Clinton. His wife, Carol, is a super-delegate too, but she supports Obama.

Needless to say they have very different views on how the party should proceed in the light of Clinton's strong Pennsylvania showing.

"It's sort of like what you would have heard at the Super Bowl at the end of the third quarter," Donald Fowler said.

"Patriot fans are anxious and optimistic, and Giant fans are hopeful and a little bit more anxious. But the game is not over."

He said Clinton supporters like him "are encouraged" by the Pennsylvania results, "but we're not naive".

He added: "We are still behind and we've got a lot to do to catch up. She's playing games now where she has to win them all."

Carol Fowler, who is chairman of the South Carolina Democratic Party, said once the primaries are over she would like to see a prompt resolution.

"I've been in politics long enough to know that when you get close to the end, people get cranky with each other," she said. "But I believe that won't continue for ever. People will find that the wounds are not so deep they cannot be healed."

As with previous contests the Pennsylvania results did little to change the mathematics in terms of super-delegates. In interviews, super-delegates supporting Clinton seized on the Pennsylvania results to push for the contest to continue, while Obama backers often focused on the need for party unity. And some expressed trepidation at their new-found power.

One super-delegate, David E Price, was a member of the Hunt Commission, which created the super-delegate system in the early 1980s.

Now a representative from North Carolina who has endorsed Obama, Price says he notices "a certain deterioration out there of the climate, but I don't want to exaggerate that".

Because the views of Clinton and Obama are so close on most issues, "it is tempting to pick each other's words apart and concentrate on lesser matters," Price said. - Reuters