WASHINGTON – If the careful enthusiasm of Maryland’s leaders is an indicator, Sen. Hillary Clinton’s campaign still has its base, even though it’s lost some steam as the presidential primary season moves to Texas and Ohio.
Much of the state’s political hierarchy, including Gov. Martin O’Malley, U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski, Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown and Treasurer Nancy Kopp, has backed Clinton throughout the race. Their support hasn’t wavered, even after Sen. Barack Obama passed Clinton in the delegate count with a 10-contest win streak that began in early February, included Maryland, and continued with the latest states of Wisconsin and Hawaii.
“She lost Wisconsin. We thought it was a little cheesy so we’re onto Texas and we’re on to Ohio,” Mikulski said. “And we’ll keep on duking it out because there are 17 more states that have not expressed their preference.”
Brown will campaign for Clinton this weekend in Texas ahead of its March 4 primary, when Ohio also will hold its vote.
“Clearly, Sen. Obama is the frontrunner in the race,” Brown said. “Texas and Ohio are the make or break primaries.”
Brown, a colonel in the Army Reserves, said he told Clinton he would roll up his sleeves and actively campaign when he gave his endorsement. He has already campaigned in Iowa, South Carolina, Georgia and New Hampshire.
“When you sign up and you enlist, you go to battle and you go to work,” Brown said.
If Obama wins the Democratic nomination though, Brown, who like Obama is African-American, said the nominee will get the same support as Clinton.
“Maryland is a solid blue state on the national level,” Brown said. “All of us, the leadership, will rally behind Senator Obama if he’s the nominee and do our very best to deliver Maryland.”
And Brown doesn’t think Obama will hold any grudges against the Maryland leadership if he wins. Democrats are like a family, he said.
“Once the family decides who’s sitting at the head of the table, we all act like a family,” Brown said.
O’Malley endorsed Clinton almost a year ago, and he has also actively campaigned for her.
“He (O’Malley) came out in support of Senator Clinton very early in her campaign,” said O’Malley’s press secretary, Rick Abbruzzese. “He continues to support Sen. Clinton.”
For Clinton to win, Kopp said, she has to win most of the remaining primaries.
“It clearly looks like there’s momentum” for Obama, Kopp said.
Kopp, like others, remained supportive of Clinton, but said she would back Obama if he wins the nomination.
“I think Senator Clinton is the best candidate and will be the president, and I’m supporting her,” Kopp said. “The most important thing is that the Democrats win the White House and clean up this mess that President Bush has made.”
O’Malley, the state’s Democratic members of Congress and Kopp are superdelegates, meaning they aren’t pledged to vote for a candidate at the convention, but can vote their own choice. The superdelegates could dictate the race if it’s still close at the start of the convention in August.
Even though Kopp and Mikulski are Clinton supporters, they weren’t sure what role they would play at the convention in Denver.
“I think we have to see what the situation is in August,” Kopp said. “I’m waiting to see how this whole thing turns out.”
The people, Mikulski said, should chose the candidate, but made clear she believes Clinton isn’t out yet.
“I’m hoping that the superdelegates will be a mute point,” Mikulski said. “When Teddy Kennedy changes from Barack, I’ll change from Hillary.”