Dean Says Dems Are Coming Together After Primary Fight

From CBS News' Michelle Levi

Washington, DC -- Democratic National Committee Chairman, Howard Dean told reporters over breakfast Wednesday that the DNC and Barack Obama's campaign are already united on several key campaign issues including campaign finance, transparency and voter research. "When the nominee comes in," Dean explained, "basically they set the policy for the Democratic National Committee. We are going to abide by whatever Senator Obama advises us to do."

The governor stressed his optimism about the impact of an extended primary season. "When we designed the 50 state strategy we did not have in mind 50 state primaries all which mattered," Dean joked, "but we got that and I think its at the end of the day going to be a very good thing" adding the qualifier, "now that we are through." He bragged, "we basically got to do a dry run of every state in the country six months before the election."

One benefit of the Democrats' season of infighting, according to Dean, was the creation of extensive voter files which will be available to every democratic candidate heading into November. "Obama used our voter files exclusively and the way they do that is through the states," Dean explained. "Since we all have the same voter files we have a national voter file map, the states build it, we pay for it on the condition that whoever uses it for the state gives us their data back."

The governor said he was "a little surprised" by the rate of his party's reconciliation "given the length of the primary season" but acknowledged "it will take some longer time" to be completed. Dean referenced his experience after dropping out of the presidential race in 2004 and said, "it is always harder for the supporters than it is for the leaders. But I think we are well on our way to unity. … We really do have to genuinely reach out to the people who were disappointed in the outcome," he said. Dean allowed there is concern that Clinton supporters may be disillusioned and stay home or turn to McCain. "But the leadership is coming around very quickly ... they get what's at stake here," he added.

One unifying element between the Obama campaign and the DNC was the decision not to accept money from lobbyists. And while the Obama campaign has not yet decided whether to accept public financing for the fall election, Dean says it is "unfair" for Republicans to criticize Obama should he decide to opt out. "When the Republican National Committee does what we did two days ago and decides that they are not going to take a dime of lobbyist money, then we can be lectured by Republicans about campaign finance reform," he said. "Otherwise, I think it is great to have people who are giving small donations."

Overall, "fundraising is not a worry at all," Dean boasted. "We knew that we would lag on fundraising while they had a nominee and we didn't." He said that yesterday he signed 35 thank you letters heading to donors of either $28,000 or $57,000 dollars each. However, the party leader warned that "elections don't get won by big landslides" and said he is "thrilled" and "delighted" that Democrats are nervous about an election which pundits say presents a friendly landscape for his party. "I am thrilled that they are nervous, I think that it is about time," Dean said adding that he thinks it is "absolutely going to be close."
  • Michelle Levi

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