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Starting Gate: Before The Flood?

New Mexico's Democratic caucuses were held on Super Tuesday but because of a close race and exhausting vote count, it wasn't until last night that CBS News could declare Hillary Clinton the winner. Her victory (which does not count toward ending her eight-contest losing streak) gave her campaign an additional delegate in a race where every delegate counts.

But some delegates count more than others and while Clinton was picking up one more pledged delegate, fears were raised that she could lose a far more important one if Rep. John Lewis, a super delegate who had endorsed her early on in the campaign, throws his vote to Barack Obama. There are conflicting reports this morning of what Lewis has said on the matter but he seemed to indicate he is at least open to the possibility.

Lewis tells the New York Times, "In recent days, there is a sense of movement and a sense of spirit. … Something is happening in America, and people are prepared and ready to make that great leap."

While insisting he does not want to see Clinton "damaged" by the process, any real movement would be far more than symbolic. Lewis, whose Georgia congressional district voted overwhelmingly for Obama, said he believes super delegates should not go against the wishes of their own constituencies. And with 80 to 90 percent of the black vote going for Obama in the primary contests, it's not surprising that prominent African American elected officials would as well. But Lewis is a well-respected member of Congress whose actions have impact far beyond the black caucus.

Despite the uncertainty of what Lewis might do, the episode follows comments by Georgia Rep. David Scott, another Clinton backer, who said Obama will get his vote. Any movement among this group of party leaders and establishment figures away from her would be troubling for Clinton.

The CBS News delegate estimate has Barack Obama with a 1,281 to 1,198 lead, including super delegates who are currently backing one or the other. The CBS News super delegate estimate, done by surveying the super delegates, gives Clinton an edge, 214 to 157 out of a total of 795.

Should the race end with a near tie in pledged delegates or, more likely at this point, with Obama in the lead, the super delegates would play a huge role in deciding the nomination. And a drip, drip, drip of support toward Obama could become a flood if Clinton cannot find a way to stop the momentum.


Huck-Solid: Mitt Romney's endorsement of John McCain was one more step forward in wrapping up the nomination process on the Republican side. While Romney urged his delegates to back McCain, the senator does not automatically get them until the convention in the fall, meaning he is still 376 delegates short of the magic number.

And Mike Huckabee insists he's not going anywhere. "There are those from the Beltway and those of the party establishment who believe its time for the Republican Party to pull together," Huckabee said in a statement yesterday, "but there are still a lot of voices that have not been heard. This election should be about choices and voices, and not a coronation."

The pressure on Huckabee to exit the race is likely to increase, particularly if he shows signs of strength in a state like Texas where a very strong showing or even a win by him would serve only to embarrass the presumptive nominee. But it may not matter. "When he got into this race a year ago he said he was going to run for president and that's what he's doing," Huckabee campaign manager Chip Salzman tells CBSNews.com political reporter Brian Montopoli. "He's not a quitter." Read the whole story here.


More Than Just Speeches? On the campaign trail, Clinton has begun hitting Obama over what she says is a lack of policy specifics, telling audiences what her opponent is selling "speeches" while she's pitching "solutions." In an interview with CBS News' Katie Couric, Michelle Obama responded to the criticism.

"When you're really trying to make serious change, you don't want people to get caught up in emotion because change isn't emotion. … It's real work and organization and strategy - that's just the truth of it. I mean, you pull people in with inspiration, but then you have to roll up your sleeves and you've got to make sacrifices and you have got to have structure." When it comes to experience, Obama is "highly experienced," she said. "It's not conventional experience that we're used to seeing, because most people have spent a whole lot of time in Washington." Read the transcript and watch part one of Couric's interview here.


Around The Track

  • McCain says he won't make a decision on whether to leave the Senate a la Bob Dole in 1996 until he has the nomination locked up (which technically could mean the convention) but that isn't stopping the speculation back home.

  • The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) is reportedly ready to throw its endorsement to Obama.

  • Super delegates have received over $890,000 in campaign contributions from Obama and Clinton directed committees, according to a new study.

  • "Assuming that John McCain will be the Republican nominee, you can bet my father would be itching to get out on the campaign trail working to elect him even if he disagreed with him on a number of issues" -- conservative commentator Michael Reagan.