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."
For her part, Clinton told supporters at a rally in Indiana, which holds a May 6 primary, that "The more people get a chance to vote, the better it is for our democracy."
"There are some folks saying we ought to stop these elections," she said in Indianapolis. "I didn't think we believed that in America. 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."
Obama said he did not discuss Leahy's call for Clinton to get out with the Vermont senator, who serves as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The candidate called fears that the Democratic Party would be damaged by a long campaign "somewhat overstated." But he added that both he and Clinton should avoid campaign attacks "that could be used as ammunition for the Republicans" in November.