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Hoyer: Electability Key to Democratic Choice

"Electability." That has been the fundamental premise of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's (D-N.Y.) presidential campaign for months now, as she makes the case that, even if Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) leads in delegates or the popular vote, she should be the Democratic nominee because she has the best chance in November.

As House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) sees it, electability should also be the animating principle behind Democratic superdelegates' decisions on which candidate to support.

At his weekly press briefing today, Hoyer cited the mantra of the civil rights movement: Keep your eyes on the prize. "The prize for me is winning the November election and changing direction in this country," Hoyer said. "And as a delegate to the convention ... I intend to vote in a way that best accomplishes that objective."

Hoyer has repeatedly made clear in the past that he believes it is the responsibility of superdelegates to bring their experience and judgement to their decision, and not to necessarily be guided by metrics like the pledged delegate count or the popular vote in their respective states.

Hoyer reiterated that point again today, barely 12 hours after Clinton beat Obama by 10 points in Pennsylvania and left the contest still unsettled. But Hoyer also suggested that Democratic elected officials, unlike regular delegates, could be held accountable for their decisions in the fall. Superdelegates are "some of the few delegates who will have to go back in November and answer for the decision that they made in August. That's the irony. The rest [of the delegates], you know, they're going to do what they do" and they're "not going to be on the ballot," Hoyer pointed out.

Hoyer, who said he has no plan "at this point in time" to declare his preference, disputed the suggestion from a reporter that his focus on electability implied that he supported one candidate over the other. "My premise is that we have two excellent candidates, both of whom could win. ... From my standpoint, I'm happy with either," he said.

On the semantic front, Hoyer also continued his losing battle to call himself and his ilk "ex officio" delegates rather than the more heroic-sounding "superdelegates." Despite his best efforts, the alternative phrase has not caught on.

"I'm not selling 'ex officio,' I know," Hoyer said. "I keep selling, but nobody's buying."

By Ben Pershing  |  April 23, 2008; 12:15 PM ET
Categories:  2008 Campaign , Dem. Leaders  
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