Meet the Superdelegates

An inside look at who the superdelegates are and which Democratic candidate they are supporting.

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The Family Ties

As if the choice between Clinton and Obama isn't difficult enough, for at least one set of superdelegates, it could have signaled that someone is sleeping on the couch.

Former DNC Chair Don Fowler endorsed Clinton early on in the campaign, but after South Carolina voters had chosen Obama, his wife and chair of the South Carolina Democratic Party, Carol Khare Fowler, decided to support Obama. "He had thought that I probably would—it's not the first thing we've ever differed on," says Carol Fowler. While these superdelegate spouses have been married only 2½ years, they've worked together in politics for more than 30. "Differing on things like this is truly nothing new," says Don Fowler. "That is part of being involved in politics." And it could have been worse: "He would have been much more upset if I had said I was supporting a Republican," says Carol Fowler.

For a few, being superdelegates is a family affair. But unlike the Fowlers, most of the superdelegate families have not divided their allegiances. Clearly, Bill Clinton is supporting wife Hillary Clinton. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and her dnc member and party activist daughter, Christine Pelosi, decided not to endorse a candidate—yet. Instead, they created what some have dubbed the "Pelosi Club," encouraging the 300 or so undecided superdelegates to side with the candidate with the most pledged delegates. Another married couple, Texas dnc members Betty and Boyd Richie, has also remained undecided.

And one final superdelegate family may not even get a chance to choose. Michigan Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick and her son, Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, may not be seated at the convention because of their primary line-cutting home state. -Nikki Schwab

The unknowns

The most prominent superdelegates are obviously "super" because of their roles as senators, governors, and well-known party elders. Most, however, are more obscure: unknown to the majority of the public, with backgrounds and personal biographies that hew to the ordinary, yet are set apart by their party activism.

Professionally, many of these "unknown superdelegates" are civic organizers, lobbyists, local party chairs, union leaders, party bureaucrats, or minority activists. There are about 400 of them in total, all members of the Democratic National Committee and responsible for slightly more than half of the party's superdelegate pool.

Some have attracted attention because of their relative youth. Jason Rae, a superdelegate from Wisconsin, is a 21-year-old Marquette University junior and the chair of the dnc Youth Council. Before backing Obama, he dined with Chelsea Clinton and took calls from, among others, Sen. John Kerry, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, and Michelle Obama. Like Rae, many other 20-somethings have the same, decidedly un-20-something role, including Awais Khaleel, the College Democrats of America vice president, who is currently uncommitted.

Another unfamiliar group of superdelegates: expatriates. Eight superdelegates living outside the United States will be seated at the convention as members of Democrats Abroad, a dnc-sanctioned organization that represents millions of registered Democrats throughout the world. (Reflecting a compromised status, each superdelegate has half a vote, for a total of four votes.)

More cryptic still are a group of 76 superdelegates known as "add-ons." Typically, these individuals are handpicked by state party chairs, who, as superdelegates themselves, stand to multiply their political influence through their choices. Add-on selections, which count toward the 795 total, are reported on a state-by-state basis; some won't be selected until June 21. As of early April, Obama had a slight lead with the group. -Kent Garber