Anatomy of a Defection to Obama

In another sign that the Democratic establishment now views Barack Obama as the inevitable nominee, Hillary Clinton has been hit by two more major defections — from key supporters in a state whose primary she won handily.

Dana Redd and Donald Norcross, two superdelegates from New Jersey, both announced this morning that they are switching their backing from Clinton to Obama. Redd is a freshman state senator from Camden County (across the river from Philadelphia) while Norcross is the co-chairman of the Camden County Democratic Party and the President of the South Jersey A.F.L.-C.I.O. A handful of other Democrats from South Jersey — including three county chairs, two state senators, a state assemblyman and the mayor of Camden — joined them in flipping to Obama.

This is all actually the handiwork of George E. Norcross III, a former executive with Commerce Bank and the pre-eminent political power-player in South Jersey. (Donald Norcross is his brother.) George Norcross has steadily consolidated his grip on South Jersey, grabbing de facto control of Democratic organizations in virtually every county south of I-195 and overseeing the election of loyalists to the state Legislature and county and municipal boards of government. It is said — with much accuracy — that no Democrat can win a significant election in South Jersey without his backing. (He also narrowly avoided a federal indictment three years ago.)

The Norcross organization’s move to Obama can be read as a purely pragmatic move, based on the likelihood of Obama’s nomination. But it is also tinged with state political motives: Governor Jon Corzine led most of the state’s Democratic establishment to back Hillary Clinton. George Norcross and Corzine are not on the best of terms, so this can be read as an effort by Norcross to upstage Corzine and to be seen as leading a shift of establishment support to Obama.

Anatomy of a Defection to Obama