March 5th, 2008
02:10 PM ET
15 years ago

Dems weigh lengthy fight to nomination

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Congressional Democrats settled in Wednesday for an extended fight to the presidential nomination after Tuesday's primaries failed to produce a clear frontrunner, while at least one Democratic leader urged party officials to let the electoral process take its course.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said now is not the time for party officials to wade into the fight over the Democratic presidential nomination.

"I think the electoral process has to work its way," she told reporters. "There are still many voters unheard from yet, and I think that our candidates both have the capacity to inspire, to bring out a big vote that will hold us in good stead in November, and I think that now is not the time for anybody to weigh in."

Many party officials are superdelegates, but Pelosi aides said that the speaker was cautioning party officials against pushing for a quick end to the nomination process rather than warning any who are superdelegates not to commit to a candidate.

Pelosi said she is confident the nominee will be decided before the Democratic convention in August.

She said she was "never among those who believed this would be resolved by now," and argued that the prolonged campaign is good for the party, offering Democrats a chance to "make a clear distinction" about their differences with Republicans on a range of issues.

She pointed to Iraq, noting the Democratic candidates are talking about "responsible redeployment versus a 100-year-war that Senator McCain has spoken about."

She was referring to McCain's comment that even after fighting ends, U.S. troops might remain in Iraq for up to 100 years, just as U.S. troops have remained in South Korea for more than half a century after the fighting there stopped.

House Democratic Caucus Chairman Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill., also hammered McCain on Iraq, saying, "Under President Bush and with John McCain's support, America's economy has been hijacked by Iraq and our investment there."

Democratic senators joined Pelosi in appearing confident the party will unite behind the eventual nominee and being largely unconcerned about the prospects of a lengthy battle.

"I don't think it's a bad thing," said Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., a former candidate who said the race is "far from over."

"At the end of the day we will unite to prevent another Republican from making it in the White House," he said.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., agreed. "Most of us think that (Sen. John) McCain is nothing but a third term for (President) Bush," he said. "That in of itself should unite the party."

Other Senate Democrats said that so long as Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama don't turn too negative against each other, the extended campaign could help whoever wins the nomination.

"We know the (Republican) attack machine is going to go after them in the general election. So to have the strongest candidate battle-tested is a good thing," said Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., a Clinton supporter. "Obviously we don't want the fighting to get too sharp-edged, but so far so good."

Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., an Obama supporter, said a lot of people are "wringing their hands" like Hamlet. But he called that "premature."

"Competition is good," he said. "All the media attention, until whatever date this is over, will be about Obama-Clinton and Sen. McCain is standing on the side saying, 'what about me?'"

But one Democratic senator, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, said she is already concerned the campaign has become too nasty.

"I just think we're going to have to be very careful that these two candidates don't tear each other apart because both are worthy, worthy people and would make excellent presidents," she said. "I was concerned about what we saw in the last week."

Sen. John Tester, D-Mont., said a lengthy fight for the nomination has the potential to divide the party, but he said he is confident Obama and Clinton will be "as professional as possible."

Tester said he has yet to endorse a candidate. He said he will base his decision in part on the popular vote from the June Montana primary, but will also weigh who he thinks has the best chance to beat McCain in the general election.

Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., argued Clinton is the best for the general election because she has done so well with Latino voters and has won key big states.

"I don't know how it is possible to win the general election if you cannot win in the Southwest, if you can't win Ohio, places like Florida," he said. "These are the key places to win the electoral vote."

–CNN Congressional Producers Deirdre Walsh, Ted Barrett and Kate Bolduan

(updated 6 p.m. ET with additional reporting)

Filed under: Congress • Nancy Pelosi
soundoff (358 Responses)
  1. Steven Barone

    For Bob G. – McCain and Rice? Give me a break dude! Didn't you mean Grandpa McCoy and Olive Oyl?

    March 5, 2008 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  2. Cris Illinois

    I think it would be quite interested to know the source of Hillary's income...loaning $5million to her own campaign...that's a lot of dough to have just laying around! It shouldn't take until April 15 to get that information toegher...give us a break! Let's see what you've got Hillary!

    March 5, 2008 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  3. MikeSmith

    I have a hard time explaining to my students how someone can break basic rules and still get rewarded. Those who voted in FL and Michigan must lack basic respect for rules. The Republicans will use these two incidents against the Dems in the general election; mark my word!!!

    March 5, 2008 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |


    March 5, 2008 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  5. Brian

    Let's count Florida and Michigan, that makes things simple. Those people's votes should count, and they should not be disenfranchised. Their political preference is clear, and their votes clearly put Hillary over the top. And CNN, quit your biased coverage in favor of Obama–shame on you!

    March 5, 2008 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  6. Kris

    Excuse me,
    what most of you obamanauts don't seem to understand is,after Hillary wins Pennsylvania she still may not have more pledged delegates than Obama,but what she will have is the trust of all the superdelegates,and with that win they'll be able to justify their vote for Hillary.Do you really think the Clinton campaighn or the democratic party will not see to it that Mich. and fla. is counted for Hillary.That's wishful thinking.Denial is not just a river in Egypt.Hillary clinton is our next president period the end.
    Hillary 08!!!

    March 5, 2008 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  7. Sebastiaan

    It is really funny to hear all those Hillary supporters that were until 13 straight wins of Obama , talking about "it is the delegates that count"

    I think I agree with them... do they still agree with themselves is the question..

    If Obama keeps a 100 pledged delagate lead then it is obvious who will be our next president.

    And Yes i care about her tax returns as i can not understand how a senator can make 5 million dollars???

    Also I have no problem with this race continuing as long as we can do without false attacks. Do democrats really want to do the work for Mccain?

    March 5, 2008 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  8. thehourpast

    Jeremy, this is to your comment:

    Yes. It is time for Obama to bow out. Thank you. Stop your cult slogan "Yes, we can!".

    Why would Obama "bow out" if he won 12 straight and leads in every possible way? There is not one ounce of intelligence in that statement.

    It is wonderful a and extremely American of you to say what you feel, but please put some substance behind your words, if that is what you are calling Senator Obama out on.

    The senator has beat Clinton in twelve separate primaries all across our nation, both in popular vote, and delegates.

    I support Obama, but this contest is history in the making. For both candidates to do what they have done so far is pure brilliance. So have some respect, speak facts and not your silly fantasies, and let's have an intelligent discussion.

    Obama '08

    March 5, 2008 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
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