- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 29, 2008

Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean yesterday admonished Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama to stop attacking one another because it’s demoralizing the party’s base and damaging its chances of winning back the White House in November.

Lecturing the two rivals for escalating campaign attacks that he said have gotten too personal, and bluntly telling their supporters to “keep their mouths shut,” Mr. Dean warned that the party’s convention this summer could get “really ugly and nasty” if their bitter battle for the nomination is not settled soon.

Mr. Dean called on the 350 unpledged superdelegates, who will likely determine the winner, to state their preference before the August nominating convention.

At the same time, Mr. Obama, the clear front-runner, received some well-timed help from two key Democrats: Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey, the son of a popular former governor, and a pro-life Catholic and gun rights supporter, endorsed the Illinois senator, giving him a big-name backer in advance of his state’s April 22 presidential primary.

And Sen. Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, the influential Senate Judiciary Committee chairman and Obama supporter, became the first party leader in the Senate to suggest Mrs. Clinton should drop out of the race.

“Senator Clinton has every right, but not a very good reason, to remain a candidate, for as long as she wants to. As far as the delegate count and the interests of a Democratic victory in November go, there is not a very good reason for drawing this out,” Mr. Leahy said yesterday in a statement.

Mr. Casey’s endorsement at this time was a surprise since he has said he would remain neutral until after the state’s primary April 22. But insiders said they expected him to embrace Mr. Obama, in part because of the decision by Bill Clinton at the 1992 Democratic convention to keep his father from addressing the delegates on abortion.

Mr. Casey is popular among blue-collar, white ethnic voters, a major Democratic voter bloc that Mr. Obama lost to Mrs. Clinton in Ohio and Texas. He trails her by double-digits in the Keystone State where he has purchased $1.6 million in TV ads in the past week — twice what the Clinton campaign has spent.

In an interview with the Associated Press, Mr. Dean voiced strong concerns that the Democrats’ internecine nominating contest was being needlessly prolonged and fostering a familiar image of a divided party still at war with itself, while Arizona Sen. John McCain, the Republican Party’s presumptive nominee, was running campaign ads and preparing for the general election.

“The supporters should keep their mouths shut about this stuff on both sides because that is harmful to the potential victory of a Democrat,” he said.

All but acknowledging that the final 10 primaries between now and June were not likely to give either candidate the 2,024 delegates needed to clinch the nomination, he said the undeclared superdelegates should declare their support for a candidate immediately after the contests end.

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