NEW YORK (CNN) -- Sen. Hillary Clinton has taken an early lead in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, even before voters make their voices heard in the first-in-the-nation presidential contests in Iowa and New Hampshire.
Hillary Clinton, left, leads Barack Obama in an early survey of national nomination delegates.
According to a CNN survey, Clinton leads the race in endorsements from so-called "superdelegates," a group of party officials and insiders who have a guaranteed vote at the presidential nominating convention in Denver later this summer.
On the Republican side, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has the most support of the few delegates surveyed who said they have made up their mind on who they'll vote for. Watch party chiefs on Iowa caucuses »
Clinton of New York leads the delegate race as of Thursday, with support from 154 superdelegates, more than three times the number supporting her nearest rival, Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois.
Obama has the support of 50 superdelegates, followed by former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, who has the backing of 33 superdelegates. New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd have won the support of 19 and 17 superdelegates, respectively, while Delaware Sen. Joe Biden has eight superdelegates in his column.
Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich has the support of one superdelegate -- himself. All sitting Democratic governors, U.S. senators and U.S. representatives are all automatic superdelegates, which means that Biden, Clinton, Dodd, Kucinich, Obama and Richardson each began the race for delegates with at least one vote -- if they cast it for themselves.
Democratic superdelegates make up about 800 votes of the just more than 2,000 delegate votes needed to clinch the presidential nomination at their convention.
While there are no superdelegates in the Republican race for president, there are a number of Republican National Committee officials who essentially have similar voting privileges at the nominating convention in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in September.
A total of 123 RNC members -- state party chairs and RNC committeemen and committeewomen -- from 35 states, D.C., and the territories are "unpledged," meaning they are free to support any candidate at the convention.
Initial results from a CNN survey of these delegates show that Romney has a small three-vote lead in the GOP delegate race with endorsements from six of these GOP insiders.
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee has endorsements from three RNC-member delegates -- all from his home state -- while former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani has one RNC-member delegate in his corner.
An overwhelming majority of the RNC-member delegates CNN contacted were either undecided or are remaining neutral. Although the 123 unpledged RNC-member delegates make up a small fraction of the roughly 1,200 delegate votes needed to win the GOP presidential nod, support from these RNC-member delegates could play a decisive role in a close race for the nomination.
Almost all RNC members and state party chairs are guaranteed votes at the convention, but not all are free to support any candidate.
RNC-member delegates in 10 states are bound to support candidates based on their states' primary or caucus results. An additional five states were stripped of their RNC-member delegates, because their states violated RNC rules by holding early nominating contests.
CNN has reached out almost every Democratic superdelegate and unpledged RNC member to determine their preferences for president, and will continue to survey them in the coming weeks and months. E-mail to a friend
CNN's Megan Zingarelli contributed to this report.
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