Mounting pressure for Clinton to drop out


President Clinton's former chief of staff says it's time for /*Hillary Clinton*/ to think about dropping out. /*Leon Panetta*/ is adding his voice to the growing number of people in the party who believe her candidacy is now doing more harm than good.

Panetta, who ran the Clinton White House, has been a supporter of Senator Clinton, but now says short of a lightening bolt, she's lost the race for the nomination.

For three years, Panetta was not only in the president's inner circle, he was in charge of it. He tells ABC7 News that if he were in Senator Clinton's inner circle and the votes play out as expected, he would advise her to withdraw.

"I think there does come a point where she has to be a gracious loser and be able to concede this race with honor. She's put up a good fight, she's put on a tough race, but I think there's a time now to concede and unify the party," says Panetta.

Panetta is joining a growing chorus of influential Democrats who are concerned that Clinton's fight for the nomination will only serve to beat up the inevitable nominee.

"I think what we have to worry about here is again pulling defeat from the jaws of victory in November," says Panetta.

In South Dakota on Thursday, Clinton did largely refrain from attacking /*Barack Obama*/, while former President Bill Clinton told West Virginians how his wife plans to win.

"They're going to have to resolve Michigan and Florida and when they do she can win the popular vote," says Bill Clinton.

Clinton sent a letter Thursday to Barack Obama saying, "whoever emerges as the Democratic nominee will be hamstrung in the general election if a fair and quick resolution is not reached that ensures that the voices of these voters are heard."

The idea of awarding the nomination to the winner of the popular vote isn't persuasive to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. She has said her superdelegate vote will go to the candidate that wins the most delegates; same for the speaker's daughter who is also a superdelegate.

"I think that as a superdelegate my vote shouldn't be more important than that of an entire congressional district, and that's why I'm not going to overturn the verdict of the American people," says Christine Pelosi.

Obama paid a visit to the House of Representatives Thursday, to in his words, say hello to the lawmakers who are also superdelegates.

Bay Area members of Congress who back Obama are staying put. However, there's been a slight shift among those supporting Clinton. On Wednesday, Dianne Feinstein said she was concerned about negative fallout from the Clinton campaign. Senator Barbara Boxer issued a statement Thursday saying, "There's a time to hold 'em and a time to fold 'em -- every candidate knows when that is."

Representative Lynn Woolsey's press secretary says Woolsey still supports Clinton, but will vote for whoever wins the popular vote, not counting Michigan where Obama wasn't on the ballot.

Only three Bay Area members of Congress remain undecided -- Rep. Jerry McNerney, Rep. Pete Stark and Rep. Mike Honda. Honda is the party's national committee co-chair and must remain neutral.

ABC7 Extra
Watch all of our interview with Leon Panetta in the media player on this page.

And for more on my interview with Christine Pelosi, read The Back Story.

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