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Pelosi Predicts Democrats Will Have Nominee in June

May 21, 2008 at 6:15 PM EST
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With the race for the Democratic nomination reaching the home stretch and continued clashes between the president and Congress, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi assesses the fight between Sens. Obama and Clinton, the racial, economic and gender divisions in the party, and the Democrats' legislative battle to end the war Iraq.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: And to our Newsmaker interview today with Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the House of Representatives, who told me it will damage her party for years to come if the super-delegates go against the will of the pledged delegates.

We talked in her office at the U.S. Capitol.

Madam Speaker, thank you very much for talking with us.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), Speaker of the House: My pleasure. Thank you, Judy.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The presidential election first. Last night, Barack Obama declared he has now won a majority of the elected Democratic Party delegates. Is he now the presumptive nominee?

REP. NANCY PELOSI: I’d like to see this process work itself out until June. We only have, what, three more primary dates left. And when that happens, then we’ll have a nominee.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, you said earlier this year that the super-delegates should essentially follow the will of the elected delegates. Do you think we’re going to see a rush to Senator Obama in the days to come by the super-delegates?

REP. NANCY PELOSI: Well, we shall see. I have not had any conversations that would lead me to believe that there will be a rush. But I keep kind of away from it.

I’m the chair of the convention. I have to be neutral. So whatever they do, they will decide maybe by the end of this week, next week, but by June. June is right around the corner. It’s very soon. I think we can all be patient.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And, in fact, Senator Clinton said she’s very much still in the fight. She’s emphasizing the fact that she — if you count those disputed votes in Michigan and Florida, she says she’s ahead in the popular vote.

REP. NANCY PELOSI: How delegates are selected is by a process, and the person who has the most delegates becomes the nominee of the party. It’s not been about the popular vote.

So we can have an elementary discussion, if you wish, but at the end of the day, someone will have the winning number of delegates. The delegate vote is the currency of the realm at the Democratic National Convention.

JUDY WOODRUFF: One more question on that. The Democratic Party Rules Committee is meeting at the end of May, just 10 days from now, and there’s reporting already that they’re going to agree on a 50-50 formula to seat those delegates from Florida and from Michigan. Does that sound right to you?

REP. NANCY PELOSI: I do think that Florida and Michigan should be seated, and I believe that they will be at the convention. It will be done in a way that I think is signed off on by both of the candidates, Senator Clinton and Senator Obama, by each of the states, Michigan and Florida, and also by the Democratic National Committee, of course, which is, until the convention, makes the determination.

The convention will seat who it wishes to seat, but I believe it will be that Florida and Michigan will be seated.

Democrats divided by race?

Nancy Pelosi
Speaker of the House
If we still don't have a nominee, I would want to be a fair broker between the two at the time of the convention.

JUDY WOODRUFF: I hear you saying that you're neutral in this process, and yet today there's a lot of talk about Nancy Pelosi. Where is she going to come down? Who is she going to endorse?

What do you say to them?

REP. NANCY PELOSI: Well, I will endorse when we have a nominee. And we may see that in June. And if that's the case, then I would endorse then. If we still don't have a nominee, I would want to be a fair broker between the two at the time of the convention.

But that's when my role in all of this plays in, is at the time of the convention. Until then, the Democratic National Committee has this responsibility.

But it's exciting, I mean, two great candidates. I remember thinking when President Bush made his State of the Union address this past January, thinking, "Next year, we will have a new president of the United States."

I, at the time, thought it was going to be Hillary Clinton, because that's where we were in the electoral process at that time, so change has happened since then. We'll see what happens when we get to the end.

But I know that next year I will be -- as speaker of the House, with a newly elected, stronger Democratic majority, be sitting behind a Democratic president of the United States.

JUDY WOODRUFF: A couple of questions about what we're seeing among the electorate in these Democratic primary votes. Last night, Kentucky, 71 percent of the white vote went for Senator Clinton; 22 percent only for Senator Obama, an equally lopsided vote among black voters for Senator Obama.

Are you worried about these racial divisions in your party?

REP. NANCY PELOSI: On the same evening in Oregon, white voters overwhelmingly voted for Senator Obama. Now, should he become the nominee of our party, with a message of change and what that change means for working families in America, I think those same people will see that their interests are served by a Democratic president.

So I'm not worried. It needs to be attended to, but I don't think it's a worry.

JUDY WOODRUFF: I ask because, again, looking at these so-called working class, white voters -- which is what the pollsters are calling them -- especially those without a college degree, who have, say, an income under $50,000 a year, they are supporting Senator Clinton overwhelmingly.

REP. NANCY PELOSI: I think many of those people have a preference in the primary, as do many have a preference for Senator Obama.

But I do think that when one of those people emerges, with a strong Democratic message -- and what I mean by that is a progressive economic agenda for the creation of jobs in our country, a real strategy for making health care available to all Americans, affordability of health care, lifting the standard of living of many people in our country who see it going down now -- all of the issues that relate to public safety, the preserving of our planet, issues that have a direct relationship, are relevant to the lives of people, usually the bread-and-butter issues, health care, education of their children, and jobs.

I think they'll see a message that will be very appealing to them, and it will be a wonderful challenge.

Demographics could be an issue

Nancy Pelosi
Speaker of the House
I think that Senator Clinton's courage and -- you know, she still may win this, but, whatever the outcome, new ground has been broken, and it won't be left broken. It will be built upon.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, beyond that question, we see only half of the voters, Democrat voters in Kentucky, said that, if Senator Obama is the nominee, that they would vote for him in November. In Oregon, I think it's just two-thirds of Senator Clinton's voters said they'd be satisfied with Senator Obama as the nominee.

REP. NANCY PELOSI: Well, that's what campaigns are about, to convince people, to attract them to your point of view.

And at the end of the day, I believe that the contrast between the status quo, the special-interest politics of John McCain versus the interest of the American people and the message of change for the better, for the American people, the people's interest versus the special interest will be the message that will win the day.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Another slice of the electorate, Senator Clinton winning women's vote overwhelmingly, two-thirds of the women's vote, again, in Kentucky, and we've seen that in Pennsylvania and Ohio. Are you concerned about putting that -- about what these women think if Senator Clinton is not the nominee?

REP. NANCY PELOSI: Well, every woman in America -- well, I can't speak for all of them, but I know -- we do know that many women in America, overwhelming number, are very excited about the prospect of a woman president of the United States.

And Senator Clinton has been a magnificent candidate, knowledgeable, articulate, eloquent, with all the stamina in the world and strength to be the president of the United States. That's a source of pride, I think, to all of us.

Also, though, if she doesn't get the nomination, it doesn't mean that there isn't another alternative that women will respond to. And I think that the message of Barack Obama, should he be the nominee, is one that will have an appeal to the women of America.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Senator Clinton and her supporters have indicated they think there's been sexism towards her, on the part of the press, on the part of people who don't support her. Have you seen this in the campaign?

REP. NANCY PELOSI: You know, I'm not that involved in the presidential campaign, but if sexism -- that it exists -- I mean, I'm the speaker of the House. I see a lot.

And some of it is what you expect and some of it is -- has some weight, I suppose. But Senator Clinton is bigger than all of that. You know, she's a great leader in our country.

I've not been in her shoes, in terms of running for president. I don't know what her campaign has experienced. And, quite frankly, I don't watch that much television to compare and contrast who's handling the campaign one way or another.

But let's reject sexism. Let's reject racism, should that be part of these campaigns, as well, and just say we want the best possible person, whoever that may be.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, just quickly. You're in a special place to make an observation on this. How much of a setback will it be for women in politics if she doesn't win?

REP. NANCY PELOSI: I don't think it's a setback at all. I think we have to look at how far women have come in this presidential election. A woman is down to the wire in contention for the presidential nominee.

I think that Senator Clinton's courage and -- you know, she still may win this, but, whatever the outcome, new ground has been broken, and it won't be left broken. It will be built upon.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Do you still believe that an Obama-Clinton or Clinton-Obama ticket is not likely?

REP. NANCY PELOSI: I do. In all honesty, I do think it is not likely. They haven't asked me who I think should be their running mate. You have. And I don't think that would be the ticket that will win for us.

Let me say it another way: I don't think that's the ticket that is going to happen. If it is the ticket that happens, it will be the winning ticket, but I don't see it happening.

The war in Iraq

Nancy Pelosi
Speaker of the House
Too many lives lost. Too many soldiers injured, many of them permanently. Too much money spent, trillions of dollars. Too much reputation destroyed in the world, and hopefully it will be regained soon with a Democratic president.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Iraq, you just returned from a trip to the region. What's your assessment of the situation there?

REP. NANCY PELOSI: My assessment of the situation is contained in what we passed last week in the Congress, which is calling for the responsible, honorable, and safe redeployment of our troops out of Iraq to begin within 30 days of enactment, to end by the end of next year.

That was my thought going in. Listening to General Petraeus, listening to Ambassador Crocker, listening to Prime Minister al-Maliki, and then the speaker of the council there has not convinced me of anything else.

There has been -- they tell me there has been progress, in terms of the military, the Iraqi army taking more responsibility for actions there, perhaps. They tell me they're going to have elections that may be transparent, inclusive, and be a step in reconciliation. I hope so.

None of it is enough to say that our troops should not be redeployed out of Iraq to make our country safer, to make the region more stable.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So no change in your position after this trip?

REP. NANCY PELOSI: No.

JUDY WOODRUFF: You pledged when you came into office as speaker that the Democrats were going to change the direction of the war in Iraq. A year and a half later, the funding is on track for the president to get what he's asked for, for this war.

What's happened? For people who look at the Congress and say, "The Democrats have a majority in both houses," what do you say?

REP. NANCY PELOSI: I say that we don't have 60 votes in the United States Senate. I'm very proud that in the House of Representatives, on a bipartisan basis, we have sent over to the Senate over and over and over again legislation calling for the redeployment of our troops out of Iraq.

A bipartisan majority in the Senate supports that, but not 60 votes. And that has been the obstacle.

And, of course, that's because the president of the United States refuses to listen to the American people. And the Republicans in Congress go along with that, especially in the United States Senate.

I had thought that we could come in and say to the president, "The people have spoken. How can we make a compromise to go forward?" But the president was not open to any compromise.

He has a blind eye to what is happening on the ground in Iraq and a tin ear -- and I say this over and over again -- as to what the American people want in this regard.

Too many lives lost. Too many soldiers injured, many of them permanently. Too much money spent, trillions of dollars. Too much reputation destroyed in the world, and hopefully it will be regained soon with a Democratic president.

JUDY WOODRUFF: You make the point about the Senate. Some look at this and say it's part of this -- a large part of this is the American people have just not risen up and demonstrated the kind of anger that you and others say is...

REP. NANCY PELOSI: Oh, I think they did. I think they've been -- they had risen up and they spoke in the election. And I think they're disappointed, as am I, that this Congress was not able to -- only one time could we put a bill on the president's desk, and then he vetoed that, and the Senate has guarded the gate and said, "No more bills going to the president's desk."

So the public is rightfully disappointed that this war has not come to an end. As I say, though, from our standpoint in the House, we have sent the bill there over and over again, as we did just last week once again. We'll see if the Senate Republicans will hold it up.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, thank you very much for talking with us.

REP. NANCY PELOSI: Thank you, Judy. Thank you.