by Mark Silva
Howard Dean – he of the campaign scream heard ‘round the world – worries that Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton and their supporters tearing each other down could be demoralizing the party’s base and damaging the party’s chances of winning the White House. He says so in an interview with the Associated Press.
The chairman of the Democratic National Committee, himself a candidate for president in 2004, says he hopes that the party’s nominee will be determined shortly after primary voting ends in early June – and he will encourage party superdelegates to make up their minds before the party’s convention in Denver in August.
The countercharges between Clinton and Obama have grown too personal at times, Dean suggests.
“You do not want to demoralize the base of the Democratic Party by having the Democrats attack each other," Dean said Thursday in an interview reported today by the AP’s Nedra Pickler. "Let the media and the Republicans and the talking heads on cable television attack and carry on, fulminate at the mouth. The supporters should keep their mouths shut about this stuff on both sides because that is harmful to the potential victory of a Democrat."
The superdelegates, the nearly 800 party and elected officials who can support whomever they choose at the convention, should decide soon, he says.
"There is no point in waiting," Dean told the AP. “The Democratic political organization "is as good or better as the Republicans,' and we haven't been able to say that for about 30 years. But that all doesn't make any difference if people are really disenchanted or demoralized by a convention that's really ugly and nasty."
“Somebody is going to lose," said Dean, the former governor of Vermont who lost his own bid for the party's nomination early in the 2004 primary season. "My job is to make sure the person who loses feels like they have been treated fairly so that their supporters will support the winner."
It is good that the candidates are debating controversies such as the incendiary sermons by Obama's pastor and Clinton's different accounts of her trip to Bosnia as first lady now, Dean says. If Democrats didn't deal with them now, he says, Republicans would surely make use of them in the fall. (They probably will in the fall anyway.)
Dean has been quietly consulting with party stalwarts about how to wrap up the nomination quickly. He has spoken with former Vice President Al Gore, former presidential candidate John Edwards, former Sen. George Mitchell, former President Carter, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, civil rights activist Jesse Jackson and former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo.
"There'll be some nasty fights if it goes to convention, and people will walk out," Dean said. "But I've also been talking to a fairly significant number of, by and large, nonaligned people about how we might resolve this."
While encouraging superdelegates to pick a candidate shortly after the voting ends in June, he will encourage no one to vote one way or another. While Obama’s campaign encourages superdelegates to back the candidate with the most pledged delegates – Obama – Dean maintains that the party’s rules do not require that and superdelegates are free to move as they please.