A Contradiction from Pelosi on the Democratic Race?

Democratic presidential hopefuls Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are campaigning hard for the votes of superdelegates to the party's convention, more than 300 of whom have yet to publicly commit to a candidate.

In an interview with NPR, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says the Democratic candidates have the right to fight right up to the party's convention in August — which means months more of competition — but also suggests that a prolonged fight could harm the party's chances in November.

Steve Inskeep and NPR News Analyst Juan Williams talk about Pelosi's comments on superdelegates, the influential political players who could decide the presidential nominee.

The voter turnout and the money that has been contributed to both senators is evidence of a significant advantage for the Democrats going into the fall, and the idea that that might be depressed is a real concern among party leaders, Williams says.

The leadership of the Democratic Party wants to force a decision before the Aug. 25 convention, he says. "There's talk of a mini-convention of superdelegates ... right after the 10 remaining contests in June. ... They want to force it, and the question is, is it fair to either candidate?"

"Pelosi wants a decision now — I think that's what we're hearing from her in no uncertain terms," Williams says.

Pelosi on the Democratic Race, China and Tibet

The Dalai Lama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi meet in Dharamsala, India. i i

hide captionThe Dalai Lama (left) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi emerge from a meeting at the Tibetan spiritual leader's palace temple in Dharamsala, India, on March 21, 2008.

Manan Vatsyayana/AFP/Getty Images
The Dalai Lama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi meet in Dharamsala, India.

The Dalai Lama (left) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi emerge from a meeting at the Tibetan spiritual leader's palace temple in Dharamsala, India, on March 21, 2008.

Manan Vatsyayana/AFP/Getty Images

Democratic superdelegates shouldn't decide the party's presidential nomination if it means overturning "the votes of the people," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says.

In an NPR interview, Pelosi says that Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama should take their contest to the party's convention in August if they desire, but the longer their battle goes on, the more it could hurt the Democrats in the November election.

Tibet, Olympics, Darfur

Pelosi, a Democrat from California, also spoke about China's recent crackdown on Tibetan protesters. She led a congressional delegation to the seat of the Tibetan government in exile in India earlier this month, where she met with the Dalai Lama.

The Dalai Lama was "as always, advocating nonviolence, deeply concerned about the violence that was happening with the oppression in Tibet that there be an international monitoring of the events that occurred there and how they happened," Pelosi tells Renee Montagne.

He was not supporting a boycott of the Summer Olympics, which are scheduled to be held in China, she says. "He was still advocating in a peaceful way for negotiations" with the Chinese government, Pelosi adds.

Pelosi says that U.S. policy "has to be that there be negotiations between the government of China and the Dalai Lama about the autonomy of Tibet. The Chinese government keeps insisting that His Holiness is advocating for independence. I've heard him in person for over 20 years advocate for autonomy, not independence."

"The issues go beyond Tibet," Pelosi says. She suggests that the Chinese government use its influence with the African nation of Sudan to improve the situation in Darfur. China should know "that the relationship between the U.S. and China is dependent on their respect for human rights and human values," she adds.

Pelosi says she "salutes" French President Nicolas Sarkozy's suggested boycott of the Olympics' opening ceremonies, adding that it "should be something that is considered." But Pelosi says she doesn't support a boycott of the athletic competition at the summer games.

Superdelegates and the Democratic Convention

Turning to the subject of the ongoing standoff between Democratic Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, Pelosi reiterated that the superdelegates should not decide the party's presidential nomination.

"I said it would be harmful to the Democratic Party and our prospects in November if the perception is that the superdelegates overturned the votes of the people, and I believe that," Pelosi says. "And I said it when Sen. Clinton was ahead and now the perception is that Sen. Obama is ahead.

"Again, we have more elections to come. These two candidates, and others who were in the race before, attracted record numbers of new people to the political process and I don't think that the success in November is well-served by saying to those people, 'You worked hard, you produced a result, but the powers that be in Washington, D.C., have a different view.'"

In a recent letter, major Democratic donors and Clinton supporters pressured Pelosi to change her position that the superdelegates should back the candidate with the most delegates.

"I said this when Sen. Clinton was ahead, too," Pelosi says. "I don't remember receiving a letter from them at that time," Pelosi says. "But let me be as clear as I can be: That letter is unimportant."

Asked about a potentially nasty convention battle between Clinton and Obama, Pelosi says, "Both of these candidates should be aiming to go to the convention. I don't think anybody should be discouraging anyone from continuing his or her quest. I just don't want to see [presumptive Republican nominee Sen. John McCain] have the field to himself unchallenged sufficiently by the Democrats because we're engaged in our own battle.

"It doesn't mean that the debate that is going on between the two [Democratic] candidates isn't healthy, it isn't constructive and it isn't full of new ideas. It is," Pelosi says. "But, again, I think the sooner we get to a ... one-on-one in the presidential race, the more successful we'll be in November. And I say that very forcefully because I think it's very urgent that the Democrats prevail. We need a new direction."

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