House minority leader Nancy Pelosi defended Bernie Sanders, calling the presidential candidate “a positive force in the Democratic Party.”
"He has awakened in some people an interest in the political process that wasn't there,” Pelosi said during a press briefing Friday. “He has encouraged young people to channel their interest in public service and community leadership into a political place, because this is where decisions are made that'll affect their future and their lives.”
“And I think that's positive,” Pelosi added.
The approval of Rep. Pelosi, who represents California's 12th district, comes as party leaders and the Clinton campaign grow increasingly frustrated with the extended primary contest between Sanders and Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton. Some Clinton supporters feel Sanders is contributing to a negative perception of their candidate, as she faces heat from progressives as well as the Republican frontrunner Donald Trump.
One Clinton ally told the Hill the Sanders-Clinton face off is a “worst-case scenario.”
“Unfortunately, [Sanders] is choosing the path of burning down the house,” the ally, who spoke under the condition of anonymity, told the Hill. “He continues with character attacks against Hillary. He continues with calling the Democratic Party corrupt, and he not only risks damaging Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party but he's currently doing it.”
Sanders continues to push forward in the race for the Democratic nomination, despite trailing Clinton in pledged delegates. Still, the Vermont senator—who has won 18 of the 41 states that have held primary contests—insists he is the right candidate to take on Trump in the general election.
“There are a lot of people out there, many of the pundits and politicians, they say, Bernie Sanders should drop out," Sanders said Tuesday at a campaign rally in California, shortly after defeating Clinton in Oregon. “The people of California should not have the right to determine who the next president will be.”
“We are in till the last ballot is cast," Sanders promised.
In an interview Thursday, Clinton maintained she would be the party nominee, telling CNN’s Chris Cuomo there's “no way I won’t be.”
“[Sanders] said the other day that he'll do everything possible to defeat Donald Trump,” Clinton said, in an obvious reminder to Sanders. “He said he'd work seven days a week. I take him at his word. I think the threat that Donald Trump poses is so dramatic to our country, to our democracy and our economy that I certainly expect Sen. Sanders to do what he said he would.”
But Pelosi, who has declined to endorse either candidate, said she’s encouraged by the enthusiasm generated by the Sanders campaign.
"The exuberance of our members is always something wonderful to behold," Pelosi said. "And at some point, to channel."