The head of the Democratic Party today declared the race for the party's presidential nomination a virtual dead heat.
"This is essentially pretty close to a tie here," Howard Dean said on NBC's "Meet the Press."
That's good news for Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., but it's probably an unpleasant surprise for Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., whose narrow lead in delegates and the popular vote have allowed him to portray himself as the frontrunner, with the best claim to the Democratic presidential nomination.
Dean urged super-delegates to break the deadlock by the end of June, some two months before the party holds its nominating convention. He also called on whoever loses out to quickly make peace with the other.
"One of these two wonderful candidates is going to lose with about 49 percent of the delegates and that person's going to have to do what's right for the country," Dean said.
To become the winner, analysts say, Obama has to reach out to the blue-collar vote. To that end, today the candidate ventured into the unfamiliar grounds of Fox News, where he has rarely appeared for an interview, admitting he needs to do more.
"I've got to be more present. I've got to be knocking on more doors. I've got to be hitting more events. We've got to work harder," Obama said.
"He needs to figure out a way to more connect, roll up his sleeves, get mustard or ketchup on his suits," said Matthew Dowd, chief strategist for the campaigns of President George W. Bush in 2004 and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2006. "He needs to sort of look like he feels in tune with those sort of average working-class voters."
Today, sleeves up, Obama dropped in for wings and cornbread the at Country Kitchen, where a small, largely African-American crowd chanted Obama's slogan, "Yes we can. Yes we can."
Polls show a virtual tie, ahead of the May 6 primaries in Indiana and North Carolina, which means as he's reaching out to new voters, Obama will also have to play a bit of defense as the campaign gets uglier.
For Hillary Clinton's part, analysts say she needs to keep on the offensive
"She has to throw even more dirty laundry at Sen. Obama," said Donna Brazille, an ABC News contributor and Democratic strategist. "There's no other way to win but to make him seem unacceptable."
That likely means voters will hear more about Obama's former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright.
They will also hear more from him, as he continues a speaking tour in his own defense against what he describes as a "public crucifixion," today in Texas and Detroit and Monday at The National Press Club in Washington.