Video: Clinton looks beyond Pa. primary

NBC News and news services
updated 3/29/2008 5:30:38 PM ET 2008-03-29T21:30:38

Former President Clinton said Saturday that Democrats calling for his wife to drop out of the presidential race should "just relax" and let the remaining states vote.

Clinton, marching in a belated St. Patrick's Day parade in Girardville, a tiny town in northeastern Pennsylvania's coal region, said it wouldn't be fair to deprive Democratic voters in states like Pennsylvania of the opportunity to vote for the candidate of their choice.

"We just need to relax and let this happen. Nobody's talking about wrecking the party," Clinton said. "Everywhere I go, all these working people say, 'Don't you dare let her drop out. Don't listen to those people in Washington, they don't represent us.'"

Clinton was responding to a statement by Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat who supports Illinois Sen. Barack Obama. Leahy said Sen. Hillary Clinton can't win enough delegates to capture the nomination and should drop out and support Obama.

Obama: Leahy's call was premature
Obama said Saturday in Johnstown, Pa., that Leahy's call was premature and that Clinton had a right to stay in the race as long as she wanted.

"Yeah. I hadn't talked to Pat about it," Obama said when asked about Leahy's comments and if it was a premature move by his surrogates.

"My attitude is that Senator Clinton can run as long as she wants. Her name is on the ballot. And she is a fierce and formidable competitor, and she obviously believes that she would make the best nominee and the best opponent," he said. "I think that you know she should be able to compete and her supporters should be able to support her for as long as they are willing or able."

Obama said that the nominee should be decided upon after all the Democratic contests have been completed "some time in early June."

Bill Clinton: 'She might win'
Bill Clinton told reporters along the parade route in Pennsylvania that Leahy doesn't want his wife to compete in upcoming contests because "she might win." Polls have shown Sen. Clinton with a big lead over Obama in Pennsylvania, which votes April 22 and is the biggest remaining electoral prize.

"I think the idea that a state as important to the Democrats' future as Pennsylvania, where (Republican nominee-in-waiting) Sen. (John) McCain has always been popular and always run well, the idea that the Democrats would not want the vote to occur here I think is crazy," Bill Clinton said.

"The people should just relax and let this process go on," he said as he walked the 1.5-mile-long parade route wearing a shamrock-colored scarf and carnation. "It's good, it's exciting, it's good for democracy."

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He drew a crowd estimated at well over 20,000, with people lining up 10 deep to shake hands and get autographs.

In a brief speech outside St. Joseph Catholic Church, Clinton told the throngs that his wife supports investments in clean-coal technology in hard-hit coal states like Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia.

Like many towns in the coal region, Girardville, population 1,800, has struggled to recover economically from the demise of widescale anthracite mining.

"If we led the world to the moon, we ought to be able to lead the world to clean coal," Clinton said. "I know a certain candidate who is absolutely committed to that."

NBC News' Aswini Anburajan contributed to this report from The Associated Press.

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