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Nervous Democrats? Dean Is ‘Delighted’

The New York Times

  

Nervous Democrats? Dean Is ‘Delighted’

Howard DeanHoward Dean (Photo: Brendan Smialowski for the New York Times)
If Democrats are a little worried about their general election prospects against a seasoned candidate like Senator John McCain, it’s just fine with Howard Dean.
“I’m actually thrilled that they’re nervous,” the Democratic National Committee chairman said. “I think it’s about time.”

Speaking to reporters at a breakfast meeting here in Washington, he also predicted the November election could be a squeaker.
“Elections don’t get won by big landslides for the most part,” adding, “it’s going to be a hard fought election.”

Mr. Dean, who referred to himself as the “referee” of his party during the long primary season, has been turning his attention to mobilizing the party machinery to support Senator Barack Obama, the presumptive Democratic nominee. On Tuesday, party leaders, including former backers of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, gathered at D.N.C. headquarters to present a unified front against the Republicans.

In recent days Mr. Dean has been hitting the McCain campaign particularly hard on its ties to lobbyists. Earlier today on the MSNBC program “Morning Joe,” Mr. Dean accused the Arizona senator of “running a campaign that is, frankly, pretty sleazy.”
By contrast, Mr. Dean said, Senator Obama does not have lobbyists working for his campaign. He added that Mr. Obama could claim some moral high ground because he has not accepted lobbyist money for his presidential bid – “not one dime.”

The Republicans been using the controversy swirling around one of Mr. Obama’s vice presidential vetters in their counter-attacks this week. In an interview on MSNBC today, Frank Donatelli, the Republican National Committee deputy chairman and McCain adviser, accused the Obama campaign of taking a “holier than thou attitude” and showing a “lack of judgment.”

Last week the D.N.C. announced that it would no longer accept contributions from lobbyists or political action committees, bringing its policy in line with the Obama campaign’s own guidelines.
But Mr. Dean declined on Wednesday to offer an opinion on whether Mr. Obama should reject public financing for the general election, effectively breaking a pledge he made to accept federal funds if his Republican challenger agreed to do so. Though he said it would be “wrong and unfair to criticize Senator Obama should he do this.” (Mr. Obama and Mr. McCain have yet to announce a decision on public financing.)

The Democratic chairman also refused to wade into the debate about what role Senator Clinton should play in the fall campaign. “That’s completely up to Senator Obama; that’s not my call.”
And does Mr. Dean plan to stick around as the chairman of the party after the election?
“That won’t be my call either,” he said. “I’m kind of focused on Nov. 4.”

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