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Obama Picks Up Another N.M. Vote

By Jeff Jones
Journal Politics Writer
    And then there was one.
    New Mexico superdelegate Laurie Weahkee announced Friday that she's backing Barack Obama, leaving Rep. Tom Udall as the last of New Mexico's 12 superdelegates to remain uncommitted in the Democratic presidential contest.
    Weahkee's decision came on a big day in the race: Her endorsement helped to put Obama into a near-tie with Hillary Clinton in the overall superdelegate tally— a category Clinton once dominated
    "It really has become clear to me that Obama will be the nominee," Weahkee said. "I just feel it's highly unlikely that Clinton can catch up at this point. Even her fundraising efforts are waning."
    Weahkee said she doubts the continued viability of Clinton's campaign after Clinton's double-digit primary defeat this week in North Carolina and her slim victory in Indiana.
    The 42-year-old Cochiti and Zuni Pueblo member added that Obama, throughout the long campaign, has "proven to be an honest and genuine leader." She said that would be key in improving relations between tribal governments and the federal government.
    Former state Democratic Party chair John Wertheim, a Clinton backer, said Friday that, while momentum might now be on Obama's side, the nominating contest continues.
    "The game is not over," Wertheim said. "And it's not ready to be called yet."
    Six of New Mexico's 12 superdelegates have endorsed Clinton, and Weahkee became the fifth New Mexico superdelegate to back Obama.
    With pressure increasing each day for uncommitted superdelegates to get off the fence, Udall— who is running for U.S. Senate— appears to be trying to keep a low profile on the issue.
    His campaign spokeswoman said on Friday only that Udall remains uncommitted.
    "I don't envy him," Weahkee said of Udall.
    Weahkee said that she received many calls and letters from fellow Native Americans around the country and that a slight majority of them backed Obama.
    "Part of my responsibility is to give voice to (the) concerns of Native American people," she said.
    Weahkee, who was elected as the state's final superdelegate by fellow party members in late April, said at the time of her election that she was uncommitted. However, some Clinton backers at the time believed she was an Obama backer.
    Weahkee said Friday that, while she voted in the state's Democratic presidential caucus on Feb. 5, she didn't cast a ballot for either Clinton or Obama.
    She instead cast a symbolic vote for a candidate who had already dropped out.
    "My candidate didn't make it," she said. "I voted for Edwards."