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NORTH DAKOTA POLITICS: Pomeroy backs, praises Obama

BISMARCK Two-thirds of North Dakota's congressional delegation and more than one-half of the Democratic-NPL's superdelegates now back presidential candidate Barack Obama.

BISMARCK Two-thirds of North Dakota's congressional delegation and more than one-half of the Democratic-NPL's superdelegates now back presidential candidate Barack Obama.

Rep. Earl Pomeroy, D-N.D., the state's lone congressman, announced Thursday he's committed to the Illinois senator's candidacy, saying Obama may have the "rare capacity" to "get us out of the partisan death spiral" in Washington. Pomeroy made the comments in a telephone conference call with North Dakota reporters.

Like Sen. Kent Conrad, earlier this week, Pomeroy was effusive about Obama's ability to inspire and excite Democrats and independents alike and find new ways to handle public policy issues and disputes.

"I've concluded he's got a different dimension of ability," Pomeroy said.

Conrad endorsed Obama in December, then spoke at length about his support this week, as an Obama campaign commercial featuring Conrad began running in the state.

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Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., remains uncommitted, spokesman Barry Piatt said today.

Told an anecdote

Pomeroy told an anecdote Thursday illustrating how excited he is about Obama's candidacy: While watching a live TV report of Obama speaking after winning the South Carolina primary Saturday night, "I was transfixed by it," he said. He listened for the first several minutes, then, "I ran downstairs and made my kids turn off their Disney movie" and also watch it, he said. He's never before had that strong a response to a political speech, he said.

Pomeroy also said he is impressed by the amount of attention the Obama campaign has paid to North Dakota and its relatively few delegates. Unlike Sen. Hillary Clinton and Democrats who have dropped out of the race, the Obama campaign has four offices in the state, nine employees and is the only Democrat airing advertisements.

Edwards' exit

Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards quit the race Wednesday.

Edwards and Clinton also have had strong support in the state from high-profile politicians.

North Dakota Edwards supporters included most of the Democratic-NPL legislators, Agriculture Commissioner Roger Johnson and state party treasurer Tim Purdon. Some said Wednesday that they were shocked at his decision to leave the contest before next week's Super Tuesday contests in 22 states.

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Former Gov. George Sinner said Tuesday he supports Clinton because she won't need "on-the-job training." His wife, Jane Sinner, said prominent national Democrats, such as Sen. Edward Kennedy, his son and niece, back Obama because "he's the weaker candidate and the Senate can control him," whereas Clinton would not allow that.

A majority of the Democratic-NPL's seven superdelegates have endorsed Obama. Superdelegates are the three members of the congressional delegation, state party Chairman David Strauss, vice chairwoman Mary Wakefield, Democratic National Committeewoman Renee Pfenning and Democratic National Committeeman Jim Maxson.

Superdelegates are free to cast their votes at the national convention for whomever they please while the rest of the state's 14 delegates must vote to reflect the outcome of the caucuses. For instance, if Clinton and Obama split the state caucus results evenly, seven delegates must vote for Clinton and seven for Obama. That being said, most conventions in recent decades have had a clear winner in the primaries who then goes into the convention with no opposition.

Cole reports for Forum Communications Co., which owns the Herald.

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