According to a senior Democratic aide, Clinton asked some uncommitted superdelegates if they could commit to her privately — without the political risks of a public endorsement — so that she could gauge whether she has the support she feels she needs to remain a viable candidate.
A Clinton staffer acknowledged Thursday that the campaign was in the process of “counting up” superdelegates because, “at the end of the day, we have to know where our numbers are.”
“We do have some private supporters,” the staffer said. “[But] for their own political purposes, they can’t be on record.”
The staffer conceded that lawmakers could, in theory, “privately back” Clinton then ultimately support Obama but said: “We need to track where we are, and there’s no other way.”
Clinton met with a smattering of superdelegates Wednesday; aides and lawmakers said she appeared at the offices of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and simply asked to meet with any uncommitted superdelegates who happened to be around.
One Clinton supporter familiar with the meetings described the senator’s “ask” as “vague.”
Obama, by contrast, took the Hill by storm Thursday. In the morning, he met with a large group of uncommitted Blue Dog Democrats at a townhouse owned by UPS. Then he walked over to the House and spent half an hour working the left side of the chamber, shaking hands, signing autographs and posing for pictures. In the afternoon, he spent nearly three hours at the Democratic National Committee, where he met with a number of superdelegates, including four North Carolina congressmen.
“We seem to be making progress,” Obama told reporters after his meetings ended on Thursday.
The Democratic front-runner said he wouldn’t “count any chickens before they’re hatched,” but he managed to pluck at least one from the nest: On Thursday afternoon, Obama picked up the endorsement of Rep. Brad Miller (D-N.C.).
The Clinton campaign had a harder time gaining traction. After a number of media outlets — including Politico — reported that Indiana Rep. Brad Ellsworth was backing Clinton, his spokeswoman put out the word that there was some “nuance” to the congressman’s position: Ellsworth is actually remaining neutral in the race but will cast his superdelegate vote for the candidate who carried his district (Clinton) if the nomination process goes all the way to convention, "unless,” of course, “there is a compelling reason to do otherwise."
And adding insult to injury, Clinton backer Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.) eagerly approached Obama during his visit to the House on Thursday and asked him to autograph the cover of the day’s New York Daily News. The headline: “It’s His Party.”
Another Clinton supporter, Rep. Alcee Hastings of Florida, gave Obama a bear hug.
But for the most part, Clinton supporters appeared to be sticking with the New York senator, even as countless newspapers and television news pundits were writing her off.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said Wednesday that the prolonged Democratic presidential campaign was beginning to hurt the party. But after talking with Clinton on Thursday morning, Feinstein said her candidate is “persevering, very collected, very determined.”
“She’s going to make the decision if the time comes,” Feinstein said. “Her strategy is to win this, and she’s entitled to her opportunity to try. I’m sticking with her.”
Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.), a Clinton supporter, crossed paths with Obama on Thursday during meetings at the DNC but told reporters e merely said hello. “I’m committed to Sen. Clinton until she becomes president,” Israel said.
Other superdelegates insisted that they were still undecided even after meeting with both candidates this week. Florida Rep. Tim Mahoney was courted by Clinton on Wednesday and Obama on Thursday, and said he was equally impressed by both.
“It’s a difficult decision,” he said. “They’re two great candidates.”
Josephine Hearn contributed to this story.