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Chief political reporter David Postman explores state, regional and national politics.

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May 8, 2008 1:49 PM

Larsen throws superdelegate support to Obama

Posted by David Postman

Congressman Rick Larsen, D-Lake Stevens, says he’s a Democratic superdelegate committed to Sen. Barack Obama.

Larsen has been neutral in the race between Obama and Sen. Hillary Clinton. He's holding a conference call with reporters right now. Larsen said:

This week Sen. Obama has proven that he is tough and resilient. He has shown that he can take a pounding but come back and communicate with the public to deliver his message of hope and change.

He said that he's been "particulary impressed by Senator Obama's truth-telling on the proposed gas tax holiday." Clinton supported a temporary suspension of the gas tax, but Obama called that pandering. Larsen said a tax holiday would "make little or no difference for Americans paying too much at the pump."

Larsen said that “as great as it sounds,” the gas tax holiday would save drivers about 31 cents a day, but take billions away from transportation projects across the country.

By definition, to me, it really looked like someone trying to create voters where votes didn’t exist. … It says to me that at least Senator Obama had the fortitude to call this gas tax holiday what it is, a gimmick.

Larsen said that early in the primary race he was leaning toward endorsing Clinton, and had also thought about endorsing New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson.

Still left uncommitted among Washington’s superdelegates are state Democratic Party Chairman Dwight Pelz and Vice Chairwoman Eileen Macoll; Democratic National Committee members Ed Cote, Sharon Mast and David McDonald; and Congressman Jim McDermott.

McDermott is the last neutral superdelegate among the state’s elected Democrats.

As recently as April 23, Larsen was saying he had no plans to choose sides before all states had a chance to vote in primaries or caucuses. He said then:

I haven't changed my view at all that we should let the states play themselves out.

Larsen said today that he, as well as other superdelegates, were impressed by Obama’s performance in the Indiana and North Carolina primaries. It was, he said using a Clinton phrase, a “game-changer” and it “put a lot of uncommitted delegates into head-scratching mode” about what to do.

He met with Obama today in D.C. about an hour before his 2 p.m. conference all began. Larsen had already decided to endorse Obama, but he wanted to talk to the candidate about the state of the race and to raise a few Washington state issues, including the Boeing tanker deal.

Politico has a great national superdelegate tracker here.

There are a total of 796 superdelegates, including 17 in Washington. That's about 20 percent of the total delegates. In Washington, the superdelegates backing Clinton are U.S. Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, Congressmen Norm Dicks and Jay Inslee, former House Speaker Tom Foley, and King County Executive Ron Sims.

Those backing Obama are Congressmen Adam Smith and Brian Baird, Gov. Chris Gregoire, and DNC member Pat Notter.

Larsen has been critical of the power the party gives to superdelegates.

I’m still no fan of the superdelegate process. That doesn’t mean I’m not a superdelegate, I still am. And it is more and more clear that the superdelegates are going to decide the nomination. That said, we’re not going to be doing it in a … smoke-filled back room. … Superdelegates are going to come out one by one and make their decision.

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