Monday, March 31, 2008

Many eyes on freshman mountaineer as N.C. superdelegates prepare to endorse Obama

On March 8, U.S. Rep. Heath Shuler of North Carolina's 11th District, right, told the Times-News of Hendersonville, "I do not plan on endorsing another candidate prior to the convention." Last week, Shuler said "He is not excited about any of the three presidential candidates left in the race," James Shea reported, quoting Shuler as saying, "I don't think any of the three gives me a sense that we can come together." Today, though, The Wall Street Journal reported that the former John Edwards supporter, who represents a district that likely favors Hillary Clinton, would join the other Democrats in the state's congressional delegation in endorsing Barack Obama.

"North Carolina's seven Democratic House members are poised to endorse Sen. Obama as a group -- just one has so far -- before that state's May 6 primary, several Democrats say," reported Jackie Calmes. But lower in the story, she seemed to leave Shuler an out: "One North Carolinian confirmed that at least several of the state's House members would go public in favor of Sen. Obama before long." (Read more) And Lisa Zagaroli of the News & Observer in Raleigh reports Shuler "remains neutral, his spokesman Andrew Whalen said. Still, endorsements may be imminent." (Read more)

NBC News Political Director Chuck Todd said in First Read this morning that a Shuler embrace of Obama might be "the biggest blow to Hillary Clinton's prospects in the state." Todd noted that Shuler, first elected in 2006, is "a conservative Democrat from a traditionally Republican district" ( map) and "was reportedly one of several superdelegates wined and dined at a recent schmancy dinner chez Hillary, is the only Democrat who represents a congressional slice that currently polls in the New York senator's favor. His constituents are mostly white (over 90 percent of residents are white, per the 2000 census) and rural -- making them one of the most important symbolic demographics being targeted by both candidates in the race." Bill Clinton spoke in Asheville Friday night and "energized the crowd," reports John Boyl;e of the Citizen-Times.

Shuler, of Waynesville, was a star quarterback at the University of Tennessee and recently blamed presumptive Republican nominee John McCain for killing an immigration bill Shuler sponsored, Shea reported last week. His campaign has received $10,000 from Obama's political action committee and nothing from Clinton's, Shea reported.

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