Hoyer's (Sort-of) Superdelegate Solution
As Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) continued to walk a fine line on the role superdelegates should play in deciding the Democratic presidential race, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) unveiled his own idea today for how the contest might be resolved.
Hoyer's suggested way out of the current mess sounds akin to making the decision in a smoke-filled room (though presumably without the smoke, which is banned in most parts of the Capitol).
Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean said last week that superdelegates should commit to either Hillary Rodham Clinton or Barack Obama by July 1 in order to settle the nomination well in advance of the party convention in August. And Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen (D) has suggested holding something like a superdelegate caucus or primary in June.
Asked about those proposals today at his weekly roundtable with reporters, Hoyer said he would also like to see the nomination settled soon, but responded with a slightly different idea.
"In my early days, my younger days, I was a political leader in Prince George's County," Hoyer said. "We had what was called a 'breakfast club' -- people sat around a table just like this. We rarely ever voted. We did have, however, significant discussions in which we ultimately came to consensus. That didn't mean everybody was in unanimity but it did mean everybody agreed, 'well, that seems to be the rational conclusion to reach.' So you don't necessarily have to vote to reach such a conclusion."
After a brief pause, Hoyer said, "I hope I wasn't too elliptical on that."
Okay, then. Hoyer also told reporters he prefers to call superdelegates "ex officio" delegates. "This 'super' business I think, you know, we're no better or worse than delegates elected as delegates," Hoyer said.
And he told a joke he said he'd made at a recent Gridiron Club dinner: "Superdelegates are just like any other delegate. Except of course we can fly, then steal and subvert the will of the American people."
Hoyer repeated his oft-stated view that superdelegates should use their "judgment" and "experience" to decide which candidate to support, pointing out that superdelegates will have the benefit at the end of the primary process of looking back at the entire arc of the campaign before making their decisions, whereas many regular primary voters were forced to cast their ballots months ago. Hoyer suggested that Marylanders who voted in the February primary, for example, might have voted differently had they been asked to do so months earlier, or later.
Pelosi, meanwile, said in a television interview this morning that superdelegates should make up their own minds about which candidate to pick.
"These superdelegates have the right to vote their conscience and who they think would be the better president, or who can win, but they also then should get involved in the campaigns and make their power known there," Pelosi said on "Good Morning America."
That's not much different from what Pelosi said on the subject March 5: "I believe superdelegates have to use their own judgment and there will be many equities that they have to weigh when they make the decision: their own belief and who they think will be the best President, who they think can win, how their own region voted, and their own responsibility."
But Pelosi has taken fire from some Clinton supporters for her past contention that superdelegates should not go against the popular vote and pledged delegate count. "It would be a problem for the party if the verdict would be something different than the public has decided," Pelosi said in February.
Those comments have been interpreted as a hint that Clinton shouldn't try to win the race with the votes of superdelegates if, as seems assured, she finishes the primary season trailing Obama in pledged delegates.
As chairwoman of the Democratic convention and the highest-ranking elected woman in U.S. history, Pelosi is in a tough spot. She has to do what she thinks is best for the party, particularly in helping Democrats win in November. But she must do it without appearing biased against the still-popular Clinton. Pelosi will certainly breathe a sigh of relief when this fight is settled.
As for Hoyer, he'll just be happy not to have to hear the word "superdelegate" anymore.
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