WASHINGTON (USAToday.com) - House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said Thursday the Democratic Party was coalescing behind Hillary Rodham Clinton as its presidential nominee for 2016, and she urged the former secretary of State to get in the race.
In an interview on USA TODAY's "Capital Download," Pelosi stopped just short of formally endorsing Clinton.
"I'm not making endorsements right now, because I don't think that's appropriate," she demurred. "But I am gauging, I'm gauging. I'm encouraging people to think about it, so in case she asks us, we have something to say to her."
Does she think the party is coalescing behind Clinton?
"I think so; I think so," she said. "There's a great deal of excitement about the prospect that she would run."
The California congresswoman, herself a groundbreaker as the only woman to serve as speaker of the House, made it clear what her advice would be: Do it. "I don't know why she wouldn't run," Pelosi said. "She's prepared. She's well-known. She's highly respected. She knows she could do the job very, very well."
In 2008, Pelosi was House speaker and stayed officially neutral in the primary battle between Clinton and Barack Obama. She drew ire from Clinton's campaign with a comment that it would be "harmful" for unelected "superdelegates" to determine the nomination. At that key moment, support from superdelegates was seen as the only way Clinton might prevail.
Pelosi describes Clinton as historically well-qualified to be commander in chief, noting she has served as first lady, a New York senator and a member of the Senate's Armed Services Committee as well as head of the State Department.
"If Secretary Clinton were to run - and we think if she ran, she would win - I believe that she would be the best-prepared person to enter the White House in decades, in decades," Pelosi said, "with all due respect to her husband, present company and other presidents."
In early polling, Clinton leads the 2016 field, but there are other prominent Democrats who have expressed interest in running, among them Vice President Biden. In a Quinnipiac University Poll released last month, Clinton was supported by 65% of Democrats for the nomination, trailed by Biden at 13% and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo at 4%.