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I, Superdelegate: In Which I Receive Yet Another Mysterious Phone Call, And President Clinton Podcasts For Me

David Holmes, a 34-year-old political/legislative consultant, is a Democratic superdelegate from Austin, Texas. He pledged to vote for Hillary Clinton about three weeks before the Iowa Caucus, but recently, there have been rumors that he’s thinking about switching his support to Obama. Let’s just say that he’s been getting a lot of phone calls lately. ...

Holmes agreed to keep a diary for TNR of his superdelegate experience.

February 15, 2008

I am David Holmes, and I am a superdelegate. Actually, I prefer to call myself an automatic delegate, because there is really nothing “super” about superdelegates.

I have an automatic vote at the Democratic National Convention because I am an elected member of the DNC--elected by the 6,000 or so delegates who showed up to a Texas party convention eight years ago, and then again four years ago. The issue of automatic delegates has become something of a controversy, and though it’s valid to question whether or not the system is set up logically or even fairly, it’s also worth remembering that the rules for delegate selection were decided and understood by all campaigns long before the first vote was cast in this presidential cycle.

Since this race has remained tight much longer than expected, a spotlight is on all the approximately 800 Democratic superdelegates in the country. With the Texas primary coming up, I’m feeling the glare particularly intensely right now.

I started my day with a taped interview with the “CBS Evening News”; recorded an interview with KEYE, the local CBS TV affiliate; and fielded a call from The New York Times, who had found on a blog somewhere that I might have switched my presidential preference for Hillary Clinton (I hadn’t).

I received a couple more e-mails today from people I don’ t know asking me to support their presidential preference, and then responded to the couple dozen friends who asked if I might know a way to get them into the Texas Debate next week between Hillary and Obama. (No, sorry, I don’t.)

I ended the long day with dinner with a group of friends, over half of whom disagree with my presidential preference and made sure I understood that clearly. I like both of the candidates and think they’re both ready to take on and defeat John McCain. But I am supporting Hillary for a variety of reasons--primarily because I know she has experience navigating Washington, and the determination and strength to fight to get our country back on the right track. Still, I have to admit that Obama’s campaign appears to have a momentum and energy that captures my attention.

When I was elected to the DNC nearly eight years ago, I was the youngest member to ever be elected by any state up to that point. Youth involvement and moving the party forward are priorities of mine and likely always will be. A number of my friends contend that Obama and his campaign embody all that I have been fighting for over the years.

Given the potential impact of my vote as an automatic delegate, I am feeling the weight of my responsibility and hope that this public deliberation will not only help others understand whatever action I take in the end, but will also actually help me make my decision.

We’ll see what this weekend brings. ...


February 16, 2008

I woke up craving donuts. As I drove away from Krispy Kreme, my cell phone rang and showed a 703 area code on the caller ID. Normally, I do not answer calls from numbers I do not recognize, but these days I receive more calls from people I don’t know than those I do. I answered it.

It was former Indiana congressman and 9/11 Commission member Tim Roemer. He told me that he is supporting Obama and would like me to consider doing the same. He said that his support for Obama is based on his belief that Obama will bring a new, diverse set of people into the Democratic Party and that he feels Obama has ideas to move the country forward. He feels Obama is the more electable of the two remaining Democrats in November and that his momentum is only growing.

I shared with Congressman Roemer my thoughts on Obama’s experience and position in the race, saying that I feel as though I still don’t know what makes Obama ready to be president. Then I told him that I felt uncomfortable with the manner in which the Obama campaign is, well, campaigning against automatic delegates such as me at the same time that it pursues our support. Rohmer made it clear that he was sticking with the idea that superdelegates should not be free to vote their own conscience. It was a nice conversation, but overall did not give me much new information.

At night, a rally was held at the South Austin headquarters of the Hillary Clinton campaign--which recently served as the headquarters of Kinky Friedman for Governor.

Bill Clinton was the headliner. The crowd was large enough that it had to be split in two parts. The people who arrived first were lucky enough to fit into a large room out of the cold. The rest were stuck outside. State Representative Valinda Bolton, her husband, and I greeted President Clinton as he walked into the building. This was not the first time I had met President Clinton, but this was the first time he was prepared to greet me by my name. He told me about his trips to Amarillo and Lubbock earlier in the day as we walked to the inside stage where he spoke first.

After the first speech, he headed outside, climbed on to the bed of a pickup truck and delivered his speech again to the people who had been waiting outside.

After his second speech, State Democratic Executive Committee member Michael Wilson and I were allowed to spend a few minutes with the president to record a segment for the podcast Michael and I produce, which covers Texas politics and music. He had a line I hadn’t heard before: Due to our unique primary/caucus process, he said, “Texas is the only place you can vote twice in the same election without breaking the law.”