House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says it would be damaging to the Democratic party for its leaders to buck the will of national convention delegates picked in primaries and caucuses, a declaration that gives a boost to Sen. Barack Obama.
"If the votes of the superdelegates overturn what's happened in the elections, it would be harmful to the Democratic party," Pelosi said in an interview broadcast Sunday on ABC's "This Week."
The California Democrat did not mention either Obama or his rival, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, by name. But her remarks seemed to suggest she was prepared to cast her ballot at the convention in favor of the candidate who emerges from the primary season with the most pledged delegates.
Obama leads Clinton 1,626 to 1,503 according to the latest NBC delegate count, which includes gains for the Illinois senator after John Edwards' delegates were divvied up after conventions by Iowa's 99 counties over the weekend. Within that number, NBC calculates that Obama leads the pledged delegates, 1,409 to 1,250, while Clinton holds a lead among the superdelegates, 253 to 217.
Barring an unlikely string of landslide victories by the former first lady in the remaining states, Obama will end the primary season with a delegate lead, but short of the 2025 needed to win the nomination.
That gives the balance of power to the so-called superdelegates, prominent Democrats who are automatically entitled to attend the convention because of their status as members of Congress or other leaders.
Influencing other Democrats
Pelosi's comments could influence other House Democrats who are neutral in the presidential race and will attend the convention as superdelegates.
In her interview, Pelosi also said that even if one candidate winds up with a larger share of the popular vote than the delegate leader, the candidate who has more delegates should prevail.
"It's a delegate race," she said. "The way the system works is that the delegates choose the nominee."
More than 500 delegates remain to be picked in primaries beginning on April 22 in Pennsylvania, which has 158 at stake on April 22.
In addition, Democrats in Michigan and Florida are demanding to have their delegations seated, even though they moved up the dates of their primaries to January in defiance of Democratic National Committee rules.
Clinton said Saturday she supports an effort by Michigan Democratic leaders to hold a do-over primary in early June, but the Obama campaign has not yet said whether it will agree. A full delegation would give the state 128 pledged delegates, not counting superdelegates.
In Florida, a plan for a mail-in primary appears doomed, leaving two major possibilities if the state's Democrats are to participate in selecting a nominee.
One is for a full-scale primary.
The other is a negotiated agreement in which Obama and Clinton split the 185 pledged delegates that would have been awarded had the Jan. 29 primary counted.
One prominent official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said there have been preliminary discussions among the state's House Democrats to see whether a compromise can be reached along those lines.
Clinton would have won 38 more delegates in the primary than Obama, had the primary results been used to award delegates, according to The Associated Press' calculations. Merely dividing the delegates evenly would leave Obama's delegate lead unchanged.
Obama appeared to open the door to some sort of agreement earlier this week, when he spoke of a procedure "that doesn't advantage one candidate or another too much."