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Clinton Urges
Supporters to Ignore Calls to End Campaign; Obama Picks Up
New Support

Clinton Urges
Supporters to Ignore Calls to End Campaign; Obama Picks Up
New Support

Barack Obama's sprint to the Democratic nomination received another boost Friday as three more superdelegates pledged their support, including one who dropped his backing for Hillary Rodham Clinton's faltering White House bid. The two Democrats have been lobbying superdelegates -- who are not bound by state results -- to line up behind them in the final push for the nomination. While Obama has presented himself, albeit subtly, as the inevitable candidate, Clinton's efforts have been to ward off further defections and convince the crucial voting block that her candidacy still retained signs of life.

Barack Obama's sprint to the Democratic nomination received another boost Friday as three more superdelegates pledged their support, including one who dropped his backing for Hillary Rodham Clinton's faltering White House bid.

The two Democrats have been lobbying superdelegates -- who are not bound by state results -- to line up behind them in the final push for the nomination. While Obama has presented himself, albeit subtly, as the inevitable candidate, Clinton's efforts have been to ward off further defections and convince the crucial voting bloc that her candidacy still retained signs of life.

Obama, a step closer to making history after a strong showing in the North Carolina primary earlier this week, appeared to be more convincing in delivering his message. He has now climbed within a handful of superdelegates of catching Clinton in endorsements from the party and elected officials who will ultimately decide the nomination. With the three new endorsements, the superdelegate count is Clinton, 271.5, and Obama, 266.

Obama spokesman Dan Pfeiffer said the candidate was picking up two lawmakers as superdelegates, including one who had previously supported the former first lady.

Another superdelegate, John Gage, president of the American Federation of Government Employees said Friday he, too, was endorsing Obama. The union is also throwing its support behind Obama.

While calling Clinton a friend and saying she has worked hard for federal employees, Gage said some members of AFGE's board think having Obama as the Democratic nominee would help the party as a whole. The union represents 600,000 workers in the federal government and Washington, D.C. Obama received the backing of two other superdelegates Thursday.

In an interview Friday on the Today show, former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards declined to endorse either candidate -- but, when pressed, made clear who he thinks has a better shot at beating presumptive Republican nominee John McCain in the general election.

''Well, I think right now, Barack Obama has a better chance, because it looks like he's going to be the nominee,'' he said.

''I think what he brings to the table is the capacity, number one, to unite the Democratic Party; number two, to bring in new voters, to bring in people who haven't been involved in the process over a long period of time; and to get people excited about this change,'' he said.

Clinton campaigned Thursday on friendly turf in West Virginia, where she is expected to win in the next vote Tuesday. She told supporters she had faced similar pressure to withdraw before she went on to win the New Hampshire, Ohio, Texas, and Pennsylvania primaries.

''I'm running to be president of all 50 states,'' Clinton, who would be the nation's first female president, said Thursday. ''I think we ought to keep this going so the people of West Virginia's voices are heard.''

But that race -- one of six remaining contests -- is unlikely to decide a 16-month nomination battle that has both polarized and riveted Democratic voters. It is mathematically impossible for either candidate to clinch the nomination without the support of superdelegates.

As of late Thursday, Obama had 1,849.5 delegates to Clinton's 1,697, with 2,025 needed to win the nomination.

That means the roughly 800 superdelegates are the ones likely to decide the outcome. Of that total, about 260 remain uncommitted. About a third of the undeclared superdelegates are members of Congress.

On the cusp of making history with his bid to be the U.S.'s first black president, Obama gently nudged congressional superdelegates for their support Thursday.

The first-term Illinois senator was surrounded in the House by well-wishers calling him ''Mr. President'' and reaching out to pat him on the back. The glad-handers included a few Republicans as well as Clinton supporters.

But the 46-year-old was quick to note that Clinton is a formidable adversary.

Pfeiffer, Obama's spokesman, said the candidate expects to receive the endorsement of Rep. Peter DeFazio of Oregon at an event Friday in his home state. Oregon holds its primary on May 20.

While polling in the Pacific Northwest state has been sparse, Obama is believed to hold a significant advantage over Clinton. With DeFazio, he will have the endorsement of three of the state's four Democratic House members.

The Associated Press has contacted nearly 100 of the undeclared superdelegates since the Tuesday contests and has found that many see Obama as the likely nominee, but are reluctant to make a public commitment until after the final states hold their votes June 3.

Obama has focused more intently on McCain in recent weeks. On Thursday, he accused him of ''losing his bearings'' for repeatedly suggesting the Islamic militant group Hamas prefers Obama for president.

That brought an angry response from McCain's campaign, which accused Obama of trying to make an issue of McCain's age. Age is a touchy subject for McCain, who turns 72 in August and would be the oldest person to be sworn in as president if elected.

Meanwhile, Clinton continued to press her case that she was the candidate most equipped to defeat McCain in November, though new comments about race dogged her following an interview with USA Today published Thursday.

In it, Clinton cited an Associated Press article which found that ''Senator Obama's support among working, hardworking Americans, white Americans, is weakening again, and how whites in both states who had not completed college were supporting me.''

Obama's campaign did not respond to the comments, which generated buzz in the liberal blogosphere. (AP)

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