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Obama-backing Sen. Pat Leahy (D-VT) has become among the most senior Democrats to explicitly call for Sen. Hillary Clinton to drop out of the race:
In an interview on Vermont Public Radio, said "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."
Leahy said he was fretting about the impact of the protracted Democratic race.
"I am very concerned," he said. "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."
UPDATE: Leahy has released a new statement phrasing the issue in a softer tone (and without a call for Clinton to drop out):
Any clear-eyed appraisal of the campaign at this stage adds up to two conclusions:
The bottom line is that, first, Senator Obama continues to hold a lead that appears to be insurmountable, and recent indications are that more and more unpledged delegates have begun to add their support to his column.
And second, John McCain, who has been making one mistake after another, is getting a free ride on those gaffes, because the Democratic candidates have to focus not on him but on each other.
Senator Casey's endorsement of Senator Obama in Pennsylvania is the latest sign of how the race is going.
A Democratic victory in November is important to the future and to the change in course that the American people want and deserve. The last thing the American people need is for Senator McCain to continue a third term for President Bush.
Senator Clinton has every right, but not a very good reason, to remain a candidate for as long as she wants to. As far as the delegate count and the interests of a Democratic victory in November go, there is not a very good reason for drawing this out. But as I have said before, that is a decision that only she can make.
Senator Clinton has begun a tremendous career in the Senate, and she has a bright future ahead of her. She faces difficult decisions ahead, and I wish her the best.
Also, the Clinton campaign released statements from their top Pennsylvania supporters:
Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell: 'To call for an end to this race before the people of Pennsylvania have had a chance to make their views known is wrong and a disservice to millions of Democrats.' "I respect Senator Leahy and like him very much but as the governor of one of America's largest states, I am disappointed in his comments. By virtually every measure, this race is neck and neck with less than 1% of the more than 27 million votes cast forming the difference between the two candidates. To call for an end to this race before the people of Pennsylvania have had a chance to make their views known is wrong and a disservice to millions of Democrats." [Statement from Gov. Ed Rendell, thepage.time.com, 3/28/08]
Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter: 'What [Sen. Leahy's] proposing would be like calling a baseball game in the 7th inning. Let's play this out... I think it's important not only that our concerns be discussed, but that our voices be heard and our votes be counted. "While I appreciate the loyalty Senator Leahy feels to Senator Obama and the concern he may have about his candidate's ability to win, what he's proposing would be like calling a baseball game in the 7th inning. Let's play this out. We have yet to have a real discussion about the issues at stake in cities like Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Scranton and I think it's important not only that our concerns be discussed, but that our voices be heard and our votes be counted. That's democracy. There is no reason whatsoever to disenfranchise Philadelphians and deprive them of their right to participate in our democratic process." [Statement from Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, 3/28/08]