Time and again, she said, South Dakota Democrats have been eager to discuss the relative strengths and weaknesses of Democratic presidential candidates Sen. Hillary Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama.
"But a constant as I've been traveling around the state this week is, regardless of who the nominee is – and maybe the short-term disappointment if their favorite didn't get the nomination – is a real energy about the importance of this next election and being unified behind the Democratic nominee," she said.
Herseth Sandlin and her husband, Max Sandlin, were at Latte Da in Vermillion Sunday to raise funds for her as-yet unofficial re-election campaign and to meet with supporters.
The South Dakota "superdelegate" originally endorsed John Edwards for the
presidential nomination, but since the former senator dropped out of the race in January, Herseth Sandlin said she has begun to lean toward Obama.
"I do think that, from what I can tell now, Sen. Obama may be the better match-up with Sen. McCain if he is indeed the Republican nominee. I think Sen. Obama clearly has some of that intangible leadership quality that is hard not to find appealing," she said. "To see how he's inspired so many young people, it warms my heart and enhances my optimism. I think there is a momentum that Sen. Obama is enjoying right now. So perhaps on March 4, this will be an easier decision."
On that date, Texas, Ohio, Rhode Island and Vermont will hold primaries to allot more than 200 delegates.
Herseth Sandlin apparently was able to make up her mind before that date. On Feb. 26, she officially endorsed Obama, stating he is the right candidate for rural America.
"He has demonstrated a deep understanding of the tremendous opportunities that come with a transition to a clean energy economy powered by homegrown renewable energy. His policy priorities as well as his bipartisan and inclusive approach convince me that he is the best candidate to lead the country forward," said Herseth Sandlin.
On Sunday, Herseth Sandlin said she heard from some Yankton High School students who favored Obama, and some older constituents who felt Clinton's experience would make her a better candidate.
"I felt it was important to hear from my constituents and my political supporters throughout the past week as I get near a decision on this front," she said. "But when they're rather divided, it makes that decision that much harder."
Herseth Sandlin and South Dakota's six other Democratic superdelegates will cast their votes for the presidential nominee during the Democratic National Convention in August. Still, she said the extended primary process has been a good civics course for the nation and has highlighted the differences in the ways the two political parties select their candidates.
"I think it has been terrific that two or three states at the beginning of the schedule didn't decide it for everybody," Herseth Sandlin said. "It really does give an opportunity to mobilize because people's interest and willingness to engage is so much more enhanced when the primary goes on for longer than it usually does. I think that's been good for the process, good for both political parties and good for the country."