AP survey: Clinton is Pennsylvania superdelegates' favorite
HARRISBURG — Hillary Rodham Clinton, who carried Pennsylvania in her unsuccessful campaign in the 2008 presidential primary, is the clear favorite for the 2016 nomination among the state's superdelegates to next year's Democratic National Convention, according to an Associated Press survey.
At least two-thirds of the state's 21 superdelegates are committed to Clinton, a larger proportion than the lopsided support she enjoys nationally from half of the 712 superdelegates who will cast ballots at the July convention in Philadelphia. The Pennsylvania superdelegates who were willing to offer opinions about which Republican candidate would be the Democrats' strongest opponent most often picked Florida's Sen. Marco Rubio.
The AP contacted 17 superdelegates or their surrogates. Of those, 14 said they support Clinton, who has deep family roots in northeastern Pennsylvania. The other three said they were uncommitted. None expressed a preference for Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont or former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley.
"I think (Clinton) learned a lot from 2008," said the state Democratic chairman, Marcel Groen, whose party position qualifies him as a superdelegate. "I think she can win and I think the world of her."
Groen, a Montgomery County lawyer, said there are risks as well as rewards in being the clear front-runner.
"You don't have to react to everything," he said. "On the other hand, you become the sole target."
Nancy Patton Mills, the Allegheny County Democratic chairwoman and a member of the Democratic National Committee, cited Clinton's involvement in education, health care and civil rights as a first lady at the state and national levels and her tenures as a U.S. senator and secretary of state.
"She was always working for the same values as I have," said Mills, who lives in suburban Pittsburgh.
Clinton "is tough when she needs to be tough, compassionate when she needs to be compassionate," said former Gov. Ed Rendell, who served as Clinton's personal campaign strategist in 2008, before then-Sen. Barack Obama carried the state in his election as president.
Pennsylvania will have 181 delegates to the July national convention in Philadelphia. Most of them will be elected in the April 26 primary; the rest will be selected at a state committee meeting in June, according to the state's delegate-selection plan.
Superdelegates are delegates to the convention who can support the candidate of their choice, regardless of what happens in the primaries and caucuses. They are members of Congress and other elected officials, party leaders and members of the Democratic National Committee.
U.S. Rep. Brendan Boyle, one of the uncommitted superdelegates, said he has no reservations about supporting Clinton, but is undecided for other reasons.
"I believe the income inequality issue that Bernie is raising is the most important issue of our time and I appreciate his passionate voice on the subject. I'm also personal friends with Martin O'Malley and have always respected his record," Boyle said.
On the question of who would be the strongest GOP candidate, four superdelegates cited Rubio and four others included him among other candidates.
"He has a great appearance, he's very articulate" and is likely attract support from Hispanic voters, said Ronald Donatucci, Philadelphia's register of wills.
Rendell said the strongest GOP ticket could be Ohio Gov. John Kasich for president and Rubio as his running mate because their home states will be crucial in the election.