Gingerly, reflecting their disappointment and anxiety, some Democratic leaders across the country are beginning to discuss the possibility that President Clinton should resign if the Starr report to Congress threatens the party agenda and its fall campaigns.
Though still sticking by the president, their sentiment was summed up by New Hampshire party chairman Jeff Woodburn: "You can't be blindly loyal."With voices rising in Democratic ranks, some White House advisers say a congressional censure may be a best-case-scenario for Clinton after prosecutor Kenneth Starr releases his report on the Monica Lewinsky affair and alleged cover-up.
One longtime Clinton adviser, speaking on condition of anonymity Friday, said an abruptly shifting political landscape may prompt him to urge the president "to take the honorable way out" and resign.
No Democrat said for attribution that Clinton should resign, only that it was now a possibility. Most party officials still argue that Clinton has had little impact on congressional races - and need not consider stepping down.
"There are always people who want to cut and run, but Bill Clinton should be permitted to move forward," said Ed Marcus, chairman of the Connecticut Democratic Party. "Now is not the time to be piling on," said Gary LaPaille, an influential Democratic National Committee member from Illinois.
At the White House, where aides say Clinton is giving no thought to resignation, spokesman Barry Toiv said most of the evidence suggests that Clinton's problems are not hurting Democratic candidates.
But interviews with Democratic leaders across the country showed clearly growing anxiety that Starr's report may reveal new details that weaken the president's grip on office or create a congressional frenzy that freezes out the Democrats' message to voters.