Thursday, May 15, 2008

Are Superdelegates Afraid of Obama at the Top of the Ticket?

If you watch too much cable news coverage of the campaign (as I do) then you'll notice that one theme the pundits like to return to repeatedly is the question of whether Democratic office holders are worried that Obama will be a drag at the top of the ticket. Yesterday's special election victory for Travis Childers (D) in Mississippi seemed to temper these arguments somewhat, but it is surely something that the Clinton campaign hopes is weighing on the minds of superdelegates. After all, most of the superdelegates have to win reelection in the fall and who the Democratic nominee is may affect their prospects. Superdelegates from states and districts that tend to be more Republican may be particularly concerned with which Democratic presidential candidate their opponent will attempt to tie them to during the general election campaign.

So who do these red state/district superdelegates see as the safer choice? Well, based on those who have already declared their support, it appears as though Obama's superdelegates actually come from slightly more Republican areas than those who have endorsed Clinton. The figure below shows the percentage of the vote that Bush won in the state (or district for House members) of superdelegates who have already endorsed. In each category, Obama's superdelegates, on average, come from areas where Bush fared better in 2004 compared to Clinton's supers.

The same general pattern holds when you look at who superdelegates from strongly Republican states or districts are endorsing. The figure below presents this information. Of the senators and governors who come from states that Bush carried with more than 55% of the vote in 2004, Obama has received 17 endorsements from this group while Clinton has received the support of 12 of these superdelegates. Obama also leads among House members from districts that went 55% or more for Bush in 2004.

However, what might be most notable is that of the 28* House member superdelegates who come from districts where Bush won at least 55% of the vote in 2004, only 11 have endorsed either Obama or Clinton. The remaining 17 in this group are still undeclared. Perhaps they have decided that the safest thing for their reelection prospects is to avoid being tied to either candidate for as long as possible.

* This does not include the new House member from Mississippi, Travis Childers.

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