Pallone says he’s with Clinton until the end; says Andrews is “not a progressive”

Representative Frank Pallone acknowledged today that Hillary Clinton is the underdog for the Democratic presidential nomination, but said that he will continue supporting her until she either wins or decides to end her run.

“I’m sticking with her. I think it’s her decision to decide what she wants to do,” he said. “As long as she’s running I’m supporting her.”

Pallone disputed buzz that Barack Obama is sure to win the nomination, saying that it’s “still possible for (Clinton) to win”

“You still have some primaries, you still have the superdelegates and you still have Florida and Michigan,” he said.

Pallone said that he doesn’t understand why smaller states like New Hampshire and Iowa get to have the first primaries. While he said that states should abide by the rules, he thinks that Democrats should figure out a way to seat the delegations of Michigan and Florida, who were stripped of delegates by the Democratic National Committee after they moved up their primary dates against party rules. Clinton won both states, though Obama was not on the ballot in Michigan and did not campaign in Florida.

“You have to hark back to the fact that the rules don’t necessarily make sense, and for us to disenfranchise two large states doesn’t make sense,” said Pallone.

Pallone made the comments during a media conference call about John McCain’s scheduled visit to New Jersey in which he was to talk about the environment. The event, originally scheduled for Sandy Hook National Park – in Pallone’s congressional district — has been canceled due to inclement weather.

The McCain campaign is exploring other options for events – possibly for tomorrow.

Pallone portrayed McCain as a Bush Republican whose policies would be “simply not good for New Jersey,” and noted that he scored a zero percent rating from the League of Conservation Voters.

“The policies of the Bush administration, and I fully expect them to continue under McCain, are to basically advocate more drilling, trying to find sources of domestic oil at the expense of the environment,” said Pallone.

Pallone also hit McCain on his opposition to the expansion of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program – a hot button issue with New Jersey Democrats and some moderate Republicans.

When asked whether he agreed with Lautenberg’s characterization of Democratic Senate candidate Rob Andrews as a Bush acolyte, Pallone demurred but offered some pointed criticism of his congressional colleague.

“I don’t think there’s any question that Rob is not a progressive. Frank Lautenberg is a progressive. His policies, whether on the war or the economy, have always been progressive, and rob is to his right,” said Pallone. “It’s not just increasing the Democratic majority in the Senate. We also want to make sure the senate is more progressive… and if you have Democrats like Lieberman who are not progressive on a lot of issues, that’s not necessarily helpful.” Pallone says he’s with Clinton until the end; says Andrews is “not a progressive”