WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, one of a handful of high-profile Democrats who has remained neutral in his party’s presidential primary battle, has hinted he supports Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton.
Carter told a Nigerian newspaper that his home state of Georgia and his hometown of Plains backed Obama in the state’s February 5 primary. His children, their spouses and his grandchildren support Obama as well, he said.
“As a superdelegate, I would not disclose who I am rooting for but I leave it to you to make that guess,” Carter told the newspaper This Day on Thursday.
A Carter spokeswoman confirmed the statement. Carter, 83, served as president for one term from 1976-81. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002.
Democratic Party rules allow nearly 800 elected officials and party insiders, known as “superdelegates,” to back whom they want at the party’s nominating convention.
Those who remain unaligned are being courted by both campaigns, as they could mean the difference between victory and defeat in the hard-fought battle to win the nomination and take on Republican John McCain in the November election.
Neither Obama, an Illinois senator who would be the first black president, nor Clinton, a New York senator and former first lady who would be the first woman president, is likely to clinch the nomination through the state-by-state primaries and caucuses that continue through June.
“Both President Clinton and Senator Clinton have a great deal of respect for Jimmy Carter and have enjoyed their relationship with him,” Clinton spokesman Phil Singer said. “He is free to make whatever decision he thinks is appropriate.”
An Obama spokesman declined immediate comment.
Obama’s camp has argued superdelegates should support the candidate who finishes with the most pledged delegates won in state contests.
Other superdelegates who remain uncommitted include U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and former Vice President Al Gore, the 2000 Democratic presidential nominee.
Carter has said he will remain uncommitted until the Democratic National Convention in August, Carter Center spokeswoman Deanna Congileo said.
Carter was in Abuja, Nigeria to help African countries fight Guinea worm disease.
(Additional reporting by Matt Bigg; Editing by Doina Chiacu)
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