Howard Dean to supahdelegates: I need your decision, and I need it now

In yet another sign of growing tensions within the Democratic party as the knock down drag out battle rages on, DNC Chair Howie Dean told CNN yesterday that he wants the superdelegates to let him know their selection – and he wants to know now:

(CNN)— An increasingly firm Howard Dean told CNN again Thursday that he needs superdelegates to say who they’re for – and “I need them to say who they’re for starting now.”

“We cannot give up two or three months of active campaigning and healing time” the Democratic National Committee Chairman told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. “We’ve got to know who our nominee is.”

After facing criticism for a mostly hands-off leadership style during much of the primary season, Dean has been steadily raising the rhetorical pressure on superdelegates. He said Thursday that roughly 65 percent of them have made their preference plain, but that more than 300 have yet to make up their minds.

Ed Morrisey is, as usual, right on the money:

Yeeargh! Dean finds himself in a tough spot after Wednesday’s Democratic debacle. The more the last two contenders get seen, the worse they both do. Barack Obama got his worst beating of the campaign, tempered only by the glee Hillary Clinton showed in helping deliver it. The supporters of both candidates have begun to tear each other to shreds over it, and the Republicans continue to enjoy the spectacle.

If this goes on for even another month, the Democrats will wind up electing John McCain — literally, if one reads the polls. The bitterness between the Obama and Hillary camps has become so large that almost a fifth of Democrats claim they will vote for John McCain when their preferred Democrat loses the nomination. Dean needs to find some way to bring this disaster to a screeching halt in time to salvage the losers before they become part of the McCain Democrats.

Unfortunately, as even Dean admits, he’s there to enforce the rules and not to change them. The superdelegates can announce whatever they want, but they’re uncommitted by rule until they actually cast a ballot at the convention. Dean can only stop this runaway train if he can convince one candidate or the other to withdraw. If Hillary wins Pennsylvania by anything more than three points, he won’t have a prayer of succeeding.

Not to mention what will happen at the convention if Hillary stays true to her word in trying to press for the Michigan and Florida delegates to be seated. As I’ve said before, we could see a convention that makes the 1968 DNC debacle look like child’s play in comparison.

And has it gotten so bad that the candidates are starting to display infantile gestures towards each other? There’s speculation in both the media and blogosphere that Obama’s Raleigh speech yesterday included him giving a subtle middle finger salute to Mrs. Clinton. I’m not so sure, but I’ll post the video so you can decide for yourself:

The LA Times Top of the Ticket blog has a photo of the moment BO allegedly made the gesture.

What do you think?

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