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Dean: Dems could fail if divided at convention

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  • DNC Chairman Howard Dean says superdelegates should decide by end of June
  • Indiana, North Carolina hold primaries May 6
  • John McCain on week-long health care tour
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(CNN) -- Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean said the only way his party would lose the general election is if Democrats "lose to ourselves first" because they are not unified.

DNC Chairman Howard Dean says his party could lose if they go to the convention divided.

Dean said he agrees with Sen. Chris Dodd that if the party goes to the convention divided, they will hand the election to Sen. John McCain, the presumptive GOP nominee.

"I think if we go in divided we'll come out divided, and it'll be much harder to win," he said on CNN's American Morning.

Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are in a neck-and-neck race for the Democratic nomination.

Neither candidate can capture the 2,025 delegates needed to secure the Democratic nomination with wins in the remaining Democratic contests, meaning the party's superdelegates will probably decide who gets the Democratic nomination.

Superdelegates are party leaders and officials who vote at the August convention for the candidate of their choice.

Dean said he doesn't have a problem with the superdelegates waiting to make their decision until after primary season ends on June 3, but he says sooner is better than later.

"There's no reason for folks not to make up their mind by the end of June as opposed to the end of August. And that would give us an extra two months to heal the party and to avoid having a really divisive convention," he said. Video Watch Dean call on superdelegates to make up their minds »

The Democrats next face off on May 6, when Indiana and North Carolina hold their contests.

Recent polls show Obama with a comfortable lead in North Carolina, but a tight race in Indiana.

Clinton's standing in the national polls has gone up since her win in Pennsylvania last Tuesday.

She and Obama are now dead even at 47 percent among likely Democrats, according the newly released numbers from Gallup.

That number remains unchanged from a tracking poll released Saturday and represents a 5-point gain for Clinton since her Pennsylvania win.

A Newsweek poll released Saturday also shows gains for Clinton, but finds the New York senator continuing to trail Obama. In that poll, Obama holds a 7 point lead over Clinton.

That margin is more than half of the 19 point lead Obama held in a similar Newsweek poll taken shortly before the Pennsylvania primary

As the Democrats focus on next week's contests, McCain is embarking on a week-long health care tour.

The senator from Arizona said Monday he wants to transform the health care system and lower costs by putting families back in charge and not the government.

"I'm convinced that the wrong way to go is to turn over your lives to the government and hope it will all be fine," McCain told a group of supporters at Miami Children's Hospital.

"We must move away from a system that is fragmented and pays for expensive procedures toward one where a family has a medical home ... where the focus is on affordable quality outcomes."

Obama and Clinton have made health care a central theme of their campaigns, arguing for more universal health care coverage.


Clinton's plan would mandate individual coverage for all, while Obama's would only require coverage for children.

McCain is expected to travel to Pennsylvania, Ohio, Colorado and Iowa this week as part of his "Call to Action tour." E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Alex Mooney and Emily Sherman contributed to this report.

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