Who Has the Power to End the Clinton-Obama Race?

From a brokered convention to a superdelegate primary, contemplating the latest what-if- scenarios in the Democratic race for the White House has left some wondering if the time is now for the party's panchayat to step into the fray to make decisions about what comes next.

But who are those village elders?

Some of the once eight-strong Democratic presidential candidate pool have chosen sides. While former Sen. John Edwards has chosen to remain neutral, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson will endorse Sen. Barack Obama on Friday in Portland, Oregon.

"I think it's a combination of a Dean, a Pelosi, a Reid because the House and Senate Democrats have as much at stake as the White House," political strategist Donna Brazile says. "And then, of course, there are a lot of grey-haired elder stateswomen and men that also could also play a leading role."

Naming names, Brazile continues: "We still have George Mitchell around who could referee a boxing match. We have Al Gore, who could weigh in. Jimmy Carter, who could also weigh in. So we have former majority leaders, speakers, party chairs who have not taken a lead role in taking sides that could help bring both sides together."

Gore Saves the Day?

Certainly, former Vice President Al Gore, who won the popular vote but lost electorally to President Bush in the 2000 presidential race and who some hoped would throw his hat into the '08 ring, is in a unique position to speak to the politics of complicated math and narrow defeats.

But viewed through the colored lens of a hotly contested primary battle, political science professor Bruce Cain said it would be difficult for any one Democrat to wield influence this cycle without being accused of political prejudice or preference.

"It can't be any old group of village elders," Cain said. "It has to be the party in particular: It should be the party officials, the DNC."

Paging Dr. Dean

Cain says complex personal, professional and political histories create a situation in which "everybody is potentially suspect" with "no one individual like Al Gore being the key savior in all this," citing unresolved tension between the former vice president and the Clintons following Gore's '00 defeat.

Said Cain, "I think if Al Gore were to speak out or Jimmy Carter, I think they would just get attacked."

Brazile disagrees.

"What I do know is that they have not publicly committed one way or another," she said. "They may have leanings, they may have personal preferences, but they also desire to see a Democrat back in the White House in 2008 and they also desire, as many of us do, to have a unified party when this is over with."

"If there needs to be a peace maker," she said Gore "could possibly be one of many," citing him as one of the party's "honest brokers to help mediate any outstanding disputes once the final round of contests would have been held."

Gore's office had no comment.

Cain said, "There's no question" the answer lies with the Democratic National Committee and that "Howard Dean absolutely has to be in the mix."

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