WASHINGTON – Citing Democratic rules, national committee Chairman Howard Dean on Tuesday said that the superdelegates who are poised to select the party’s presidential nominee are free to back whomever they wish at the end of the primaries, regardless of who leads in the popular vote or pledged delegates.
“They should use whatever yardstick they want,” Dean said in an interview at party headquarters.
“That’s what the rules provide for.”
Asked about Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s suggestion that superdelegates should exercise independent judgment and not feel bound by the standings after June 3 – the day the nominating season ends – Dean replied: “That’s what the rules say, and I enforce the rules.”
He also said superdelegates are free to weigh the disputed primary results in Florida and Michigan, two states Clinton carried in the absence of campaigning by rival Sen. Barack Obama.
The two campaigns have spent weeks wrangling over a plan that would seat delegates from the states, which violated party guidelines by voting earlier than allowed.
Although his comments amounted to a restatement of party rules, Dean’s stance undercut an argument pressed by Obama and his backers.
They have said the candidate who has the most pledged delegates should automatically win the support of any uncommitted superdelegates after the primary balloting ends.