Pelosi inches closer to endorsement of Clinton

Pelosi inches closer to endorsement of Clinton
© Greg Nash

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Tuesday that she’ll throw her considerable political weight behind one of the Democratic primary hopefuls, and all signals point to Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonGrassley blasts Democrats over unwillingness to probe Clinton GOP lawmakers cite new allegations of political bias in FBI Top intel Dem: Trump Jr. refused to answer questions about Trump Tower discussions with father MORE.

Pelosi declined to say whom she’ll endorse — or when.

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But the nation’s first female Speaker has long hailed the idea of having a woman in the White House, and she predicted Clinton, the former secretary of State, will beat out Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersSchumer: Franken should resign Franken resignation could upend Minnesota races Avalanche of Democratic senators say Franken should resign MORE (I-Vt.) as the eventual Democratic nominee. 

“I assume it will be Hillary Clinton,” Pelosi said Tuesday during an interview with The Hill in her office in the Capitol.

Pelosi has hinted in the past that she expects Clinton to be the winner, but Tuesday’s comments had added significance coming one day after the front-runner’s narrow victory in the Iowa caucuses.

On Tuesday, Pelosi was quick to praise Sanders for energizing Democrats’ liberal base, particularly those young voters who might otherwise have been uninterested in the race.

She credited his campaign with driving the high turnout at Monday’s Iowa caucuses and stressed the importance of having his supporters show up at the polls in November, regardless of who sits atop the Democratic ballot. 

“One of the beauties of Bernie Sanders’s campaign [is that] he has turned on so many people to being involved and taking an interest in voting,” Pelosi said. “Then, of course, the reaction ... [from Clinton] is to out-organize him. And then what do you have? A record turnout. 

“And that’s a good thing for the general election, for whoever the nominee is.”

The top House Democrat has been fairly cautious in her approach to this year’s presidential race, largely steering clear of the contest except to praise all the Democratic contenders as superior to anyone in the GOP field. The Democratic field shrunk after Monday, when former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley suspended his campaign after a poor showing in Iowa.

That cautious approach was on display Tuesday, when Pelosi downplayed Clinton’s Iowa win just before celebrating the victory as something of a surprise considering the heavy turnout that was expected to favor Sanders.

“I think they both won. But I think she did very well considering the turnout,” Pelosi said. “So I think everybody has something to brag about last night.”

In 2008, Pelosi, then the House Speaker, stayed publicly neutral in the primary contest between Clinton and Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaPatagonia files suit against Trump cuts to Utah monuments Former Dem Tenn. gov to launch Senate bid: report Eighth Franken accuser comes forward as Dems call for resignation MORE.

Despite her outward neutrality, Pelosi has floated a few hints that she’s leaning toward a Clinton endorsement.

Last week, she distanced Democrats from a tax hike proposal that’s key to Sanders’s plan — perhaps the centerpiece of his campaign — to establish a government-run universal healthcare system. 

“We’re not running on any platform of raising taxes,” Pelosi said during Democrats’ yearly issues conference in Baltimore.

And last year, she suggested that Democrats could win back the House majority by riding the coattails of a formidable Democratic presidential candidate like Clinton. 

“If she runs, she will win the nomination. And if she’s our nominee ... the joint effort would be one that could not only take her into office but would [pull Democrats to victory],” Pelosi said at the time.

Facing a GOP that boasts its largest majority since the Great Depression, House Democrats are seen as having almost no chance of taking back the House this cycle. But Pelosi noted last week that Democrats defied expectations when they won the House in 2006 — and she predicted the party will take the gavel back within three years. 

“We had a tide, and they had a tide, and we can have a tide again,” she said in Baltimore. “Some of it will depend on who the presidential candidate is. 

“In the meantime, we’re building our blocs to win as many seats as possible,” she added. “I don’t know if we’ll have it in one more year. I feel absolutely certain we’ll have it in three years. But, I’d like it in one year. 

“You just don’t know.”