Today, the fourth of Idaho's four automatic superdelegates committed to Barack Obama in a jam-packed room at Idaho party headquarters. Saying he'd traveled to Chicago late last week to meet with the Obama campaign, state party chairman Keith Roark joined Gail Bray and Grant Burgoyne (pictured below with Roark, center) and Jeanne Buell in announcing his support for the Illinois senator.
Idaho became perhaps the first state in the nation today to have all its superdelegates commit to voting for Barack Obama at this summer's Democratic National Convention. Party chairman Keith Roark's announcement came as a steady stream of superdelegates has begun moving toward the presumptive nominee. He praised both Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton as strong candidates, but said Obama is in the best position to win nationally and do well in Idaho.
Betsy Russell of the Spokesman-Review arrived a few minutes late for what had been billed as a 12:10 news conference that actually started at noon, so she missed Roark's description of why he went with Obama. Voicing the thoughts of many in the room, she asked what took him so long.
But as Roark made clear in the comments he'd prepared for delivery, he needed to do due dilligence on the decision, despite Obama's statewide, 80 percent shellacking of Clinton in the Idaho Democratic caucuses on February 5. "It was important to see how the campaign progressed," Roark answered. "Campaigns are long and hard. What I've seen in the last four-and-a-half months is that Barack Obama isn't the man of steel, he's not Superman, but he is someone who can take a punch and punch right back."
Obama's sizable victory in North Carolina last week, coupled with Clinton's razor-thin Indiana win, helped Roark make up his mind. A recent dismissive quote about Idaho from Bill Clinton - whom Roark called "a man of former prominence" - contributed to Obama's case. So did a trip to Obama campaign headquarters late last week, where senior staffers told Roark that the Obama campaign would put resources into Idaho so Democrats can run the first serious presidential campaign we've had in decades.
In fact, considerable human resources are already in place. Also attending today's announcement were dynamic organizing duo Kassie Cerami and T.J. Thomson (pictured here) - who earned well-deserved props for putting Idaho on the campaign's map starting last summer - and about a dozen other core supporters, some of whom have been on board with Obama since early 2007. They represent hundreds of volunteers whose energy brought Obama to speak at Taco Bell Arena on February 2 in what remains one of the campaign's biggest events to date; who organized tens of thousands of Idaho Democrats (and independents and disaffected Republicans) to caucus on a cold February night; and who were out just this past weekend to help kick off the campaign's national voter registration drive.
By contrast, none of the other Democratic presidential campaigns was able to generate much grassroots action in Idaho - another factor that led Roark to give Obama the edge over Clinton. "The unprecedented enthusiasm Senator Obama has generated here in Idaho is unlike anything I have seen in my 31 years of active political participation in this State," he said, adding that it's likely that, beyond financial resources, Idahoans can anticipate a future appearance by Michelle Obama as well as a repeat visit from Barack Obama before Election Day.
Idaho Democrats will name a fifth, so-called "add-on" superdelegate to its national convention delegation at the state party convention next month in Boise. Will that person also support Barack Obama? Roark indicated if the person can read "or count," he or she certainly will.
Update: As of late afternoon, Obama had picked up four more superdelegates today, which put him in the lead for superdelegates by the reckoning of all major media including NBC, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and CNN. Obama has a strong lead in pledged delegates as well.
Update 5/13: Here's another good superdelgate tracker from politico.com.