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Hoyer, Pelosi Split on Superdelegates

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) split today from Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and other House Democratic leaders on the role superdelegates should play in deciding the party's presidential nomination.

Made up of elected officials and other party bigwigs, superdelegates have come under particular scrutiny this year as it has become more likely that neither Hillary Rodham Clinton nor Barack Obama would go into the Democratic convention with enough delegates to clinch the nomination. Even after her wins Tuesday, Clinton still trails Obama in the pledged delegate count, though she leads in superdelegates.

Last month, Pelosi told reporters that she did not support the idea that superdelegates might hand the nomination to a candidate who was trailing in the pledged delegate count after the party's primaries and caucuses were over.

"I don't think it was ever intended that superdelegates would overturn the verdict, the decision of the American people," Pelosi said. "What they are there to do is to be in place should there be a need for some change ... but not to change what happened in the election."

But Hoyer took a different tack in his weekly press briefing today, when he was asked whether it would be right for superdelegates to decide the election.

Pointing out that most superdelegates have been elected by the people and nominated by Democrats to hold their positions, Hoyer said: "The superdelegates were created, in my view, to bring their judgment, their experience and their commitment to success in the general election, and to bring that judgment to bear on how best we can accomplish the most success."

Asked by a reporter whether that meant "superdelegates should exercise their conscience, regardless of what the pledged delegate totals might be at convention time," Hoyer repeated that superdelegates "should bring their experience to bear on the question of the nominee."

"The superdelegates didn't do a bad job with Abraham Lincoln," Hoyer continued. "They didn't do a bad job with Franklin Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson or even Harry Truman."

Hoyer also said, though, that he "didn't expect that to be a concern" and reiterated his previously expressed hope that the nomination would be decided by May.

Hoyer's view on the issue doesn't just differ from Pelosi's. House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen (Md.) have echoed the Speaker's view.

"It's crazy to think that way, and it's crazy to act that way," Clyburn said last month, in response to a similar question about superdelegates anointing a winner. "What our role is supposed to be is to extend the will of the people, not reverse it."

And Van Hollen said last month: "I do think it would be a huge mistake for the superdelegates to try and somehow overturn the judgment of the voters throughout the country."

Of course, all four of those Democratic leaders -- and the party's other members of Congress -- are superdelegates themselves. So will most Democratic lawmakers endorse Pelosi's view of their role, or Hoyer's view? We may have to wait until we get to Denver to find out.

By Ben Pershing  |  March 5, 2008; 1:35 PM ET
Categories:  2008 Campaign , Dem. Leaders  
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Next: Pelosi and Superdelegates, Cont'd

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