JOHNSTOWN, Pennsylvania (CNN) – Sen. Hillary Clinton should remain in the Democratic presidential race "as long as she wants," rival candidate Barack Obama said Saturday despite two of his high profile supporters urging the former first lady to give up.
"She is a fierce and formidable competitor, and she obviously believes that she would make the best nominee and the best president," the Illinois senator told reporters while campaigning in Pennsylvania. "I think that she should be able to compete, and her supporters should be able to support her for as long as they are willing or able."
Pennsylvania is the scene of the next Democratic primary, on April 22, and the largest state that hasn't yet weighed in on the party's presidential race. Clinton, of New York, has won primaries in the biggest states so far, but Obama has won more total contests and leads Clinton in race for delegates to the party's August convention in Denver - where the nominee will be formally ratified.
Two of Obama's leading supporters, Sens. Christopher Dodd and Patrick Leahy, said Friday that Clinton should rethink her chances of overcoming that deficit and consider folding her campaign. Leahy, D-Vermont, said Clinton "has every right, but not a very good reason, to remain a candidate for as long as she wants to."
In Indiana Saturday, Sen. Clinton continued to resist recent suggestions that she end her presidential bid. (Photo credit: AP)
INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana (CNN) - Hillary Clinton began her Saturday in Indiana by continuing to push back against calls for her to exit the presidential race, telling an audience in Indianapolis that “it is better for our democracy” to keep the nomination contest moving forward.
“There are some folks saying we ought to stop these elections,” she said amidst boos, repeating a line she introduced yesterday after Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy urged Clinton to step aside.
“I don’t think we believe that in America,” she said. “I thought we of all people knew how important it was to give everyone a chance to have their voices heard and their votes counted, and we’re going to give Indiana that chance on May 6. The more people that have a chance to vote, the better it is for our democracy.”
Clinton also included a line about counting the results from two disputed primaries, telling the crowd at Ben Davis High School that “we’re also going to have to come to terms with how to count the votes of your neighbors in Michigan and the people in Florida."
In the city of Hammond, Indiana on Friday afternoon, Clinton argued that the long Democratic nomination battle is a boon for her party and will only serve to strengthen the eventual nominee.
“We will have a united party behind whomever that nominee is,” she told reporters in Hammond. “I certainly will do everything I can to make sure that we win in November.”
– CNN Political Producer Peter Hamby
WASHINGTON (CNN) - On the sidelines during presidential campaign season for the first time this decade, former presidential adviser Karl Rove couldn't resist taking shots at Democratic frontrunner Sen. Barack Obama.
Rove focused his firepower on the Illinois senator at a speech to the Young America's Foundation in Washington, D.C. Friday night, barely mentioning his Democratic rival, New York Sen. Hillary Clinton.
President Bush's former chief strategist, who left the White House in 2007, pegged Obama as a do-nothing senator who talked big and achieved little. "What bills has he sponsored?" Rove asked.
The fact that some Democrats are still hoping that former Vice President Al Gore will bring the party together, said Rove, is a signal that the party is in disarray. "You know you got a problem if the answer is Al Gore," Rove said to laughter.
Rove expressed cautious optimism that a conservative would be in the White House come next January, telling the crowd "there's a long time until November."
–CNN's Jeff Simon and Jillian Harding
(CNN) – Ralph Nader, who recently announced his own 2008 presidential bid, has now also weighed in on the battle between Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.
In a blog posting on his campaign’s website, Nader advised Clinton to stay in the Democratic nomination race, despite recent calls for her to drop out from high-ranking members of the Democratic Party who back Obama.
“Just like every other citizen, you have the right to run. Whenever you like. For as long as you like,” wrote Nader.
Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut, both of whom support Obama, made comments Friday that are some of the strongest yet from prominent Democrats suggesting that Clinton reconsider her presidential run.
Clinton has showed no signs of dropping out of the race. She currently leads polls in Pennsylvania, the next state to hold a primary. But, Obama was endorsed Friday by Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey, Jr. and the endorsement may help Obama with Catholic voters, an important demographic in Pennsylvania which has favored Clinton in other states’ primaries.
–CNN’s Rebecca Sinderbrand and Martina Stewart