WASHINGTON - Senator Barack Obama has caught up to his opponent, Senator Hillary Clinton, in the count of superdelegates, one of the few mathematical areas where the former First Lady still maintained an advantage in the race for Democratic Party nomination. Superdelegates are nearly 800 elected leaders and Democratic Party officials who aren't bound by the outcome of state contests and can cast their ballot for any candidate at the national nominating convention. They are especially valuable in this race since neither Mrs. Clinton nor Obama can win enough pledged delegates to secure the nomination through state-by-state elections. On Friday, Obama, an African-American, picked up endorsements from three more superdelegates, the Democratic Party insiders who are granted autonomy to support whomever they wish at the convention in August. One, a New Jersey congressman, switched his allegiance away from Mrs. Clinton, allowing the Illinois senator to pull even with his rival, according to the latest New York Times count. The Times's tally shows each candidate with 263 superdelegates, based on telephone polls conducted with CBS News as well as public endorsements. A separate count by The Associated Press shows Obama still trailing by fewer than four votes. And a measure by ABC News shows the Illinois senator already ahead, 267 to 265. Mrs. Clinton trails her opponent in the popular vote and the total Democratic delegate count. But this is the first time since the outset of the race that she has lost the lead in one of her few remaining trump cards. Superdelegates represent up to a fifth of the Democratic convention delegation, and have historically supported the front-runner at the convention. More than 250 superdelegates have yet to publicly announce their decisions. On Thursday, Obama picked up the support of Representative Donald Payne of New Jersey, who told The Star-Ledger of Newark that he was switching away from Mrs. Clinton after thinking through "one of the most difficult decisions I have made." Peter DeFazio, an Oregon congressman, also said he would back Obama. Ed Espinoza, a Californian who is a member of the party's national committee, pledged his support on Friday, according to the Obama campaign. Obama's gains came as other senior members of his party appeared to be closing ranks around him. The Huffington Post reported that Representative Rahm Emanuel, the influential Democrat from Illinois, referred to Obama as the "presumptive nominee" at a discussion panel held by The New Yorker on Friday morning. (A spokeswoman for Emanuel told the Politico that "all Rahm said was that Senator Obama was now the front-runner, which by and large means, because of the calendar, he is the presumptive nominee, at this point.") Appearing on MSNBC Friday, John Edwards, a former senator and a vice-presidential with John Kerry, said he was "very likely" to endorse the candidate he voted for in the North Carolina primary on Tuesday. But, the anchors asked, which candidate was it?  In his demurral,Edwards may have slipped: "I just voted - I just voted for him on Tuesday," he said. David Schuster, an MSNBC host, attempted to ferret out the truth. "So it was a him or a her that you voted for?" he asked, interrupting the former senator. Edwards then backpedaled, saying, "No, no," and laughing.