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Hoyer: Race Is 'Presumably' Over

Is the Democratic presidential nomination race really "over"? That's the semantic question of the day, and the always-cautious House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) gamely tried to answer it this morning.

Hoyer kicked off his weekly press briefing by saying, "It is an historic morning in many ways. We have as the presumptive nominee of the Democratic party -- presumptive only because the vote hasn't been cast yet -- an historic figure."

After praising both candidates, Hoyer said: "We now have, as I said, presumably, although it's not absolutely over, Sen. Barack Obama who now has a majority of delegates pledged to him to be the nominee of our party."

Sounds pretty definitive, right? There's more:

"As I said, my expectation is that Sen. Obama will be our nominee. I think that's the expectation of the entire country, including the front page of the Washington Post today. While I haven't seen every front page in America, my presumption is they reflect a similar sentiment. That being the case, I will enthusiastically support the nominee of our party. I expect it to be Sen. Obama. I have not been in touch with Sen. Clinton, but it is my expectation that in the next couple of days Sen. Clinton will be addressing this matter in a fuller way than she did last night, and I look forward to that as well.

Now, Hoyer has performed something of a delicate dance throughout the race, remaining avowedly neutral but -- deliberately or not -- frequently echoing the arguments of Clinton supporters that superdelegates (or "ex officio" delegates, as he prefers) should make up their own minds about who to support, rather than simply reflecting the will of their states or districts. And other Democratic leaders have had their own issues today figuring out how exactly to frame the race.

So when it came time for questions, the first reporter kicked it off with this: "It sounds like you're still hedging. You say you expect to enthusiastically support the nominee of your party. You expect it to be Mr. Obama. Do you endorse Mr. Obama?"

"I'm going to be supporting Mr. Obama," Hoyer said. "Now ... I expect Mrs. Clinton to say some things in the next couple of days, and I think that's appropriate for her to do, and I expect her to say that, at which time I may make it more formal. But my expectation is, and I think everybody's expectation is, I'm enthusiastic about an Obama candidacy and I think he's going to win this race."

For good measure, Hoyer added that he is "not frustrated" with Clinton for how she has handled the endgame, and that he has "zero doubt" there will be party unity, as Clinton and Obama work together to help the party win in November.

So it's settled: The race appears to be over, with Obama the presumptive nominee whom Hoyer expects to support. You can quote him on that.

By Ben Pershing  |  June 4, 2008; 12:34 PM ET
Categories:  2008 Campaign , Dem. Leaders  
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