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Whitehouse undecided on superdelegate vote


Although the Democratic National Convention begins in four days, US Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, one of Rhode Island's superdelegates, says he is undecided who he will support when Hillary Clinton's name is included in a roll call vote during the DNC.

Whitehouse, speaking this morning during a taping of WPRI/WNAC-TV's Newsmakers (tape from the show should be on this Web site later today), nonetheless expressed confidence that Barack Obama has a lock on the nomination.

Rhode Island's junior senator initially supported Clinton, and backed Obama only after he emerged as the primary winner. Whitehouse, who said when pressed that he backed Clinton since she was his preferred candidate, mostly offered a message of Democratic unity.

Whitehouse is in Rhode Island today for a field hearing of the Senate's Committee on the Environment and Public Works, to discuss global warming and its implications for Narrgansett Bay.

In related news:

-- Whitehouse defended his vote for the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The senator has been a fierce critic of the Bush administration's Justice Department, who, with AG Michael Mukasey, will have the authority to determine "emergency situations" that justify spying on Americans at home and abroad. The authority is justified, he says in part, since it comes with a limited time threshhold. 

-- During the 2006 campaign, Whitehouse, like many Senate Democrats, promised to work to end the war in Iraq. Asked why these Democrats haven't forced the Republicans to filibuster in opposition to Democratic efforts to end war spending, he responded by saying, in short, that the votes aren't there to do so.

-- Whitehouse, who talked up Jack Reed in my recent story, says the senior senator is justified in raising a $4 million war chest, even without well-funded opposition this year. Declining to comment on what this says about how Washington operates, the senator cited the cost of running a campaign. Asked whether much of this money will be recycled as campaign donations to other Democrats, Whitehouse says there would be nothing wrong with that since Republicans do the same thing.

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