- Associated Press - Friday, November 13, 2015

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - Nearly three months before New Hampshire’s presidential primary, nearly all of the state’s Democratic insiders known as superdelegates are backing Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Superdelegates can support the candidate of their choice, regardless of who voters choose in the primaries and caucuses. They are members of Congress and other elected officials, party leaders and members of the Democratic National Committee.

The Associated Press recently contacted all 712 Democratic superdelegates and asked which candidate they plan to support at the convention next summer. Among the more than 80 percent who responded, 359 are backing Clinton, eight are backing Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and two are backing former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley.

Among New Hampshire’s eight superdelegates, six are backing Clinton: DNC member Joanne Dowdell, Gov. Maggie Hassan, U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster, U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, DNC member Billy Shaheen and DNC member Kathy Sullivan. The seventh - Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley - is prohibited from supporting anyone in the primary, and the eighth - state Sen. Martha Fuller Clark - says she may wait until after the primary to endorse.

“I think it’s very important that we have as open and engaged a primary with a level playing field as possible, and I think as an officer of the party it’s my responsibility to promote all of the candidates at this particular juncture,” she said.

Billy Shaheen said he sees Sanders as a “motivator,” but it is Clinton who can deliver results.

“I think Americans are wise enough to know that great ideas don’t automatically mean results, and they want results,” he said. “And I think Hillary has a charm about her. I think she knows how to get things done.”

While united behind Clinton, the others were more scattered on the question of which Republican candidate would be her strongest opponent. Several declined to answer. Shaheen said he originally thought it would be Bush but now isn’t sure. Sullivan was a bit more certain.

“I still thing Jeb Bush is probably the toughest one,” she said. “Because up until now he’s shown an ability to raise significant amounts of money. I would also say he’s probably one of the least crazy ones running on the Republican side.”

The 712 superdelegates make up about 30 percent of the 2,382 delegates needed to clinch the Democratic nomination. That means that more than two months before voting starts, Clinton already has 15 percent of the delegates she needs.

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Associated Press Writer Kathleen Ronayne contributed to this report.

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