Leahy says Clinton should drop out of race

03/28/08 7:34AM By Bob Kinzel
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(Host) Will a protracted battle between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination hurt the Party's chances of winning the November election?

Senator Patrick Leahy, who supports Obama, says the answer is yes, and he thinks Clinton should drop out of the race.

But Clinton's supporters in Vermont have a very different opinion.

VPR's Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) It's a question that's being raised in political discussions on the radio, on TV, in newspapers and in the blogs.

And the results of a new poll highlight the danger for the Democrats if their presidential primary contest gets any nastier.

According to a new Gallup poll, 28% of Hillary Clinton's supporters say they'd vote for GOP candidate John McCain if Barack Obama wins the Democratic nomination and 19% of Obama's supporters say they'd vote for McCain if Clinton is the Party's nominee.

Senator Patrick Leahy, who's a super delegate supporting Obama, is clearly worried about this situation:

(Leahy) "I am very concerned. John McCain, who has been making one gaffe after another, is getting a free ride on it because Senator Obama and Senator Clinton have to fight with each other. I think that her criticism is hurting him more than anything John McCain has said. I think that's unfortunate."

(Kinzel) Leahy says it's virtually impossible for Clinton to win more elected delegates than Obama, and as a result, he thinks it's time for her to accept defeat:

(Leahy) "There is no way that Senator Clinton is going to win enough delegates to get the nomination. She ought to withdraw and she ought to be backing Senator Obama. Now, obviously that's a decision that only she can make. Frankly I feel that she would have a tremendous career in the Senate."

(Kinzel) Former Governor Madeleine Kunin is the co-chair of the Clinton campaign in Vermont. She thinks Leahy is dead wrong on this issue:

(Kunin) "It is premature, to tell her to drop out now is just unfair because it isn't over. Admittedly, it's tough for Senator Clinton to get a majority of the delegates but it's not over till it's over. It seems a bit patronizing to tell her 'Honey, you know you've got to drop out for the good of the Party.' Sure it's not easy, but I think the process has to go forward as it was designed to go."

(Kinzel) And Kunin thinks, in the end, the Democrats will unite behind one of these candidates:

(Kunin) "I think both Democratic candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton know that what everybody wants in the Democratic party is a winner and some of this is just inevitable. But I think they will unite and I'm confident that judging by the turnout at every democratic primary which has been unprecedented that Democrats will do very well in November."

(Kinzel) It's likely that roughly 800 super delegates will ultimately decide this race. Vermont has 7 super delegates - five are supporting Obama, one is backing Clinton and one person - former governor and now D.N.C. chairman Howard Dean is neutral.

For VPR News, I'm Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

AP Photo/Charles Dharapak: Clinton campaigns in North Carolina.

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