- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 16, 2008

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says it would damage 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,” Mrs. Pelosi said in an interview taped Friday for broadcast today on ABC’s “This Week.”

The California Democrat did not mention Mr. Obama or 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.

Mr. Obama leads Mrs. Clinton by 142 pledged delegates — those delegates picked in nomination contests to date, in the Associated Press’ count. Barring an unlikely string of landslide victories by the former first lady in the remaining states, he will end the primary season with a delegate lead, but short of the 2,025 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 national or local party leaders. Mrs. Clinton leads Mr. Obama for their support by 249-213, according to an AP count of public endorsements and interviews, but those words are not binding.

Mrs. 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, Mrs. 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 April 22 in Pennsylvania, which has 158 at stake.

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.

Mrs. Clinton said yesterday 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.

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 Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton split the 185 pledged delegates that would have been awarded had the Jan. 29 primary counted. One prominent official said on the condition of anonymity that the state’s House Democrats have discussed whether a deal can be reached along those lines.

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