HELENA – Barack Obama picked up the support of a key Montana superdelegate Monday following his weekend visit to the state, while another superdelegate was forced to retract her endorsement of the Illinois senator because of party rules.
With the backing of Jeanne Lemire Dahlman, a national committeewoman from Forsyth, Obama now has the support of three of Montana’s eight superdelegates. The party insiders are allowed to vote for whichever candidate they prefer at the Democratic National Convention in August.
So far, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton has not received any Montana superdelegate endorsements.
Also Monday, Margarett Campbell, a state lawmaker from Poplar, initially said she was endorsing Obama after the two candidates visited Montana over the weekend. A short time later, she said Montana Democratic Party rules prevented her — as vice chair of the state party — from endorsing in a contested primary.
Despite that, Campbell’s loyalties seemed clear.
“I am very interested in endorsing Obama, but party rules preclude me from endorsing,” Campbell told The Associated Press. “It’s been emotional, it’s been frustrating. It has been very frustrating. It is a huge responsibility.”
Both Obama and Clinton campaigned in Montana last weekend, with separate visits to Missoula and back-to-back speeches in Butte at the state party’s annual dinner.
Dahlman said she made her decision to back Obama after meeting both candidates in Butte. She did, however, add the caveat that she may reconsider if Montana voters pick Clinton in the state’s June 3 primary.
“At this point, after thinking about it long and hard, I would like to endorse Barack Obama,” Dahlman said in a telephone interview from her home. “I would just like to honor the Montana primary votes by saying that I would reconsider if there were a significant difference in the outcome on June 3.”
Dahlman almost changed her mind after verbally committing to Obama on Saturday night. On Monday morning, she said she felt it might be best to wait until after June 3. Later, she said she would officially endorse Obama.
“I don’t feel lukewarm about endorsing Obama,” Dahlman said. “His leadership potential is amazing, and he has brought so many new people into politics.”
In a tight race, both Obama and Clinton have been wooing the superdelegates who may end up deciding the nomination this summer.
Former U.S. Sen. John Melcher and Lewis and Clark County Commissioner Ed Tinsley have already endorsed Obama.
Undecided superdelegates include Gov. Brian Schweitzer, U.S. Sens. Jon Tester and Max Baucus, along with party chairman Dennis McDonald. They have all said they are waiting to pick until after the June 3 primary.
All of Montana’s Democratic primary voters — which have numbered over 100,000 in past years — will apportion 17 delegates with their combined votes. Meanwhile, given the closeness of the race, the eight superdelegates may hold more sway individually — and the candidates know it.
“There is pressure from both sides to endorse,” Tester said Monday, adding surrogates from the campaigns have been seeking his endorsement.
“I would be doing the same thing if I were in their boots,” Tester said. “But I really don’t think superdelegates were meant to be in this position.”
Tester said the results of the primary will factor into his decision, but he also wants to hear more from the candidates.
“I want to be able to make the decision myself,” Tester said.
Schweitzer was brief in addressing the issue Monday.
“This is a decision Jag and I will make together,” Schweitzer said, referring to his beloved dog. “I’m waiting and he’s still sniffing.”
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