(CNN) – A recent letter from several Hillary Clinton fundraisers to Nancy Pelosi seeking she step back from her contention that superdelegates should support the pledged-delegate leader appears to have had little effect on the House Speaker.
Pelosi spokesman Brendan Daly said late Wednesday the California Democrat stands by her argument that the party's superdelegates would do damage if they go against the will of voters and hand the nomination to the candidate who finished second among those delegates awarded from the round of caucuses and primaries.
"The speaker believes it would do great harm to the Democratic Party if superdelegates are perceived to overturn the will of the voters," Daly said. "This has been her position throughout this primary season, regardless of who was ahead at any particular point in delegates or votes.”
The statement comes a day after nearly 20 high-profile Clinton fundraisers strongly criticized Pelosi for that position, arguing instead that the superdelegates "have an obligation to make an informed, individual decision about whom to support and who would be the party’s strongest nominee."
The fundraisers, who reminded Pelosi in the letter they have been strong contributors to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, also urged the House Speaker to "clarify your position on super-delegates and reflect in your comments a more open view to the optional independent actions of each of the delegates at the National Convention in August."
"Speaker Pelosi is confident that superdelegates will choose between Sens. Clinton or Obama — our two strong candidates — before the convention in August," Daly also said. "That choice will be based on many considerations, including respecting the decisions of millions of Americans who have voted in primaries and participated in caucuses."
Pelosi first expressed her stance in an ABC News interview earlier this month - one that benefits Barack Obama, whose current pledged delegate lead of 171 is virtually insurmountable given the party's proportional delegation allocations, even if Clinton were to win each of the remaining 10 primary contests.
An Obama spokesman called the Clinton fundraiser's letter "inappropriate."
Meanwhile, CNN's Ted Barrett reports some Democrats on the Hill are privately complaining the letter was a bad idea.
One senior aide, whose boss actually supports Clinton, said there are “grumblings that pressuring Pelosi was a stupid thing to do,” largely because it appears the donors were “bullying” the speaker.
Another top aide, who works for a senator who is neutral in the race, predicted, “if the misguided effort hasn’t already blown up in their face, mark my words it will. For the life of me how they think they can win this argument with the Speaker is beyond me.”
(Updates with Capitol Hill Democrats' reaction)
– CNN Ticker Producer Alexander Mooney
FAYETTEVILLE, North Carolina (CNN) – Hillary Clinton pleaded for partisan unity on Thursday, urging Democrats not to abandon their party to vote for John McCain if their preferred candidate fails to secure the nomination.
Clinton was asked by a questioner in the audience here what she would tell frustrated Democrats who might consider voting for McCain in the general election out of spite.
“Please think through this decision,” Clinton said, laughing and emphasizing the word “please.”
“It is not a wise decision for yourself or your country.”
The crowd applauded loudly.
A Gallup poll released this week indicated that 28 percent of Clinton's supporters would back McCain should the New York senator lose her quest for the Democratic nomination.
That compares to the 19 percent of Obama supporters who say they will favor McCain should Clinton be the party’s nominee.
“First of all, every time you have a vigorous contest like we are having in this primary election people get intense,” she continued. “You know, Sen. Obama has intense support. I have intense support.”
Clinton stressed that there are “significant” differences between her and Obama, but said “those differences pale to the differences between us and Sen. McCain.”
“I intend to do everything I can to make sure we have a unified Democratic party,” she said. “When this contest is over and we have a nominee, we’re going to close ranks, we’re going to be united.”
– CNN Political Producer Peter Hamby
WASHINGTON (CNN) – A new national poll suggests the increased bickering between Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama could affect Democratic turnout in November.
Sixteen percent of Clinton supporters questioned in a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Thursday afternoon said they are not likely to vote in the general election if Obama is the Democratic nominee. An equal number of Obama supporters said they'll sit it out come November if Clinton is their party's nominee.
"The problem for the Democratic Party in November may not be crossover votes - Clinton supporters choosing McCain in the fall if Obama wins the nomination, or Obama voters doing likewise if Clinton gets the nod," said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "The real problem may be that those disaffected Clinton or Obama supporters may just stay at home in November, which could cost the party dearly in some key states.
"If the Obama stay-at-home vote is largely African-American, that will affect Democrats' chances on the ballot in several Southern states, and could take states like Virginia off the table completely," he said. "It might even hurt Democrats in states where the party relies on heavy turnout in large urban areas, such as Pennsylvania and Ohio. And if the Clinton stay-at-home vote is predominantly female, that will hurt the party everywhere."
It should be noted, however, that polls are a snapshot of how people feel at the moment. If the Democrats can come together and agree on a nominee, most of the ill-will could be just a memory by November.
But a look back in history shows primary animosity has carried over into the general election before.
In 1980, the nomination fight between Jimmy Carter and Ted Kennedy lasted all the way to the convention. The result was a drop in the number of liberals who voted in the fall.
In 1992, Pat Buchanan staged a conservative challenge to the first George Bush that left many of his followers angry at the incumbent. The result was a drop in the number of conservatives who came out to vote in the general election.
Both Carter and Bush lost those elections.
The CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll was conducted by telephone from Friday through Sunday, with 1,019 Americans questioned, including 227 registered Democrats who said they support Hillary Clinton and 218 registered Democrats who said they back Barack Obama. The survey's sampling error is plus or minus 5.5 percentage points.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – This looks like one of those pivotal moments in Iraq with enormous ramifications for the approximately 150,000 U.S. troops in the country.
The government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s Shi’ite-dominated government is facing a major new challenge right now – not necessarily from Sunni insurgents, but from the anti-American Shi’ite cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr’s supporters. They have been relatively quiet in recent months – basically honoring a cease-fire. But now, there is a real possibility that will change and a new level of Shi’ite versus Shi’ite fighting will escalate.
We are already seeing brutal fighting in the southern Iraqi city of Basra, where there is so much of Iraq’s oil reserves. Iraqi government forces are battling al-Sadr’s militia in the area. British forces retreated from the area and handed over security responsibility a few months ago to the Iraqi military and police.
That, in turn, is fomenting angry and violent al-Sadr-led demonstrations against al-Maliki’s government in the Sadr City area of Baghdad. And the shelling of the so-called Green Zone in Baghdad – where the U.S. Embassy is located - has escalated as well.
This is a real test for the Iraqi government. President Bush is welcoming what he calls al-Maliki’s “bold decision” to go after the rebel Shi'ite forces in Basra. “Terrorists and extremists in Iraq will know they have no place in a free and democratic society,” President Bush said.
At stake right now – whether the Bush administration’s military strategy will work. The political fallout on the campaign trail could be significant.
–CNN Anchor Wolf Blitzer
(CNN) – The increasingly charged Democratic race for the White House appears to be hurting Hillary Clinton significantly more than Barack Obama, a just-released poll suggests.
According to a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, the New York senator's personal approval rating has dropped markedly, and those that hold a negative view of her have reached 48 percent - the highest in that poll since March 2001. Just 37 percent now have a positive view of Clinton - down from 45 percent two weeks ago.
The new poll comes at the end of one of the most hostile months in the Democratic presidential primary race, during which surrogates for both campaigns resigned after uttering controversial statements, and controversy swirled around Obama over past statements by his former pastor, Jeremiah Wright.
But despite fears by some of Obama's backers that the Wright controversy would take a toll on the Illinois senator and his presidential hopes, the new poll shows his approval rating has remained virtually unchanged at 49 percent. Only 32 percent of Americans give him a negative approval rating.
Meanwhile, in head-to-head matchups Clinton and Obama remain deadlocked for the nomination, each drawing 45 percent among Democratic voters. Both are also statistically tied with John McCain in matchups: Clinton is two points behind the Arizona senator while Obama is two points ahead - both within the poll’s margin of error of 4 percentage points.
– CNN Ticker Producer Alexander Mooney
(CNN)—Over the past year, bulletins from Barack Obama’s church have appeared online that included writings from controversial figures like Louis Farrakahn of the Nations of Islam and Hamas leader Mousa Mohammed Marzook.
One of the articles, reprinted on the Web site’s “Pastor’s Page,” was originally printed in the Los Angeles Times as “Hamas stand.” Pastor Wright added a new title, “A Fresh View of the Palestinian Struggle.’
The article defended and justified terrorism and refused to recognize Israel’s right to exist. The LA Times came under fire for giving a platform to an alleged terrorist.
The pages appear to have been removed from the Church’s website.
This week, Obama denounced the articles, telling the Jerusalem Post that the church was “outrageously wrong” in reprinting the pieces. "Hamas is a terrorist organization, responsible for the deaths of many innocents, and dedicated to Israel's destruction,” said the Illinois senator.
Obama’s former minister, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, also came under fire this week when reports surfaced that he had written an article for Trumpet Magazine, run by his daughters, in which he said that “white supremacy is clearly in charge in America.” The article also quotes him referring to Italians’ “garlic noses,” and characterizing Jesus’ crucifixion as “a public lynching, Italian-style.”
Similar remarks from Rev. Wright prompted Obama’s public address of race last week. Recent polls suggest Obama has recovered politically after that address.
On Wednesday, Rev. Wright cancelled upcoming guest appearances in Florida and Texas, citing security concerns.
–CNN's Emily Sherman
A group of high-profile Hillary Clinton supporters is going after Nancy Pelosi.
Nearly 20 Clinton donors sent a letter to the House Speaker, criticizing her for her recent suggestion that the Democratic superdelegates should not overturn the election results. Pelosi has said it would be hurt the Democratic Party if the superdelegates did not support the candidate who ends the race with the most pledged delegates. The Clinton donors want Pelosi to "clarify" her position.
The letter says Pelosi's take is at odds with the party's original intent on the role of superdelegates, those nearly 800 party insiders and elected officials who will likely decide the outcome of this race. The Clinton donors insist the superdelegates should look at a whole range of factors to help them decide who will be the party's strongest nominee in November.
To read more and contribute to the Cafferty File discussion click here
(CNN) – In an interview Wednesday, one of John McCain’s top backers, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, appeared to pour cold water on the notion that his home state’s governor, Mark Sanford, would be a strong addition to the Republican presidential ticket.
Sanford, a fiscal hawk from the Charleston area with solid credentials on social issues, has seen his name floated by national political observers as a possible running mate for McCain. But within South Carolina, Sanford has maintained a rocky relationship with Republican legislators over spending and reform issues.
Speaking with reporters and editors from The State newspaper in Columbia, Graham praised Sanford as a "solid conservative reformer" and said of the 47-year old governor, "I think his profile nationally among conservatives is very positive."
However, Graham noted that Sanford has had a "tough" tenure as governor, and argued that adding a South Carolinian to the Republican ticket would have a meaningless electoral impact.
"To be honest with you," said Graham, "I don't see any of us in South Carolina bringing a whole lot of value to the ticket. We're talking about winning a national race that's going to be very competitive."
Sanford did not endorse McCain or any GOP candidate before the South Carolina primary, but he has since backed the presumptive nominee.
"When it comes time to pick a vice president, that the smart money, I think, would be trying to add to the national security, you know, reinforce that aspect of the ticket," Graham said.
Speculating on what could happen in his state this fall, Graham said he considered South Carolina too conservative to turn blue in the general election, but still predicted Barack Obama had the potential to shift the electoral map.
"Sen. Obama would create energy and enthusiasm, particularly among African-Americans, so there he is ... some states would be in play that hadn't been in play before," he said.
(CNN)— One day after a Gallup poll suggested a third of Hillary Clinton’s supporters would back John McCain this fall if she does not capture the Democratic nomination, a new survey indicates roughly as many Barack Obama voters would do the same if he is not the party’s nominee.
Thirty-two percent of Clinton’s supporters claim they will vote for McCain if she is not at the top of the ticket in a Pew Research Center poll released Thursday; 28 percent of Obama’s supporters say they will back the Republican nominee if the New York senator is the Democrats’ general election candidate.
The poll also finds controversy surrounding Barack Obama’s former pastor Rev. Jeremiah Wright appears not to have done permanent damage. Despite unprecedented public attention – coverage of Wright’s sermons “attracted more public attention than any events thus far in the 2008 presidential campaign,” according to Pew - the Illinois senator still maintained a 49 percent to 39 percent advantage over Clinton in the survey.
Overall, the survey found voters’ opinions of the presumptive Republican nominee, John McCain, were virtually unchanged from results in a February Pew poll. But 64 percent of voters now believe Republicans will unite behind the Arizona senator, up from 58 percent in February.
The survey of 1,503 adults was conducted March 19-22 and has a margin of error of 3 percentage points.
–CNN’s Emily Sherman