After issuing a warning to Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama that negative campaigning threatens to tear their party apart, Democratic Party chair Howard Dean said the candidates need to keep their tone focused on winning the White House in November.
In a Friday interview on "Good Morning America," Dean cited record turnout but noted "some personal criticism" between the candidates.
"We have to keep our mind focused on the idea that at the end of the day we really need change in these country," Dean told ABC's Diane Sawyer. "One of these two candidates needs to win. We're going to win unless we divide ourselves and that, we cannot do."
Intense back-and-forth on the campaign trail have left the two Democratic candidates with a narrow margin between them.
In a race that could be left to the party's nearly 800 leaders who have independent votes in choosing the Democratic nominee on the convention floor, Dean says he'd like the superdelegates to announce who they're supporting by July 1.
"We don't want this to degenerate to a big fight at the convention," Dean said, "This is an evenly divided party with two great potential nominees. I need to make sure that we all play by the rules that we all agreed to a year ago that the person who loses will be just as strong a supporter of the person who wins."
Some Democrats have been looking to Dean to step in to referee the fight between Clinton and Obama as it rages on.
On Friday Dean said, "Most of the insiders that are saying these things are aligned with one candidate or the other. What they would like somebody to do is step in agree with them and then make what they want happen."
Clarifying his role in resolving the tightly contested Democratic race, Dean said, "My job is to make sure we elect a Democratic president … That is what we're going to do. But we're going to do in in a unified way and we're going to do it with the consent and working together of both candidates."
Dean would not elaborate on his conversations with the candidates to the tone of their campaigns but said, "At the end of the day both of these candidates have an obligation to our country to support the other and make sure their supporters do as well."
Rules are rules, Dean said in response to former President Bill Clinton's suggestion late Thursday that his wife would be the Democratic frontrunner if the nation's 40 primaries counted but not its 18 caucuses.
"It's the caucuses that have been killing us," Clinton said yesterday in a call with supporters.
20 Clinton-supporting Democrats wrote House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — who, like Dean and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., is thus far neutral in the Democratic race — angry at the speaker's suggestion that letting superdelegates decide the nomination would be harmful to the party.
The donors reminded Pelosi that they've made past donations to Democratic members of Congress. The Obama campaign called the letter "inappropriate."