The chairman of the Democratic National Committee wants the presidential hopefuls to tone down the attacks on their rivals.
In an interview at a DNC fund-raiser Tuesday, Terry McAuliffe said he understood the need for the nine candidates to draw distinctions on issues, but he fears the war of words is escalating.
"We do not and I do not encourage any of our candidates to go after fellow Democrats," McAuliffe said. "I want to discourage it early on. ... We expect all of them to abide by a good code out there to make sure the focus is on George Bush and not on each other."
In recent weeks, several of the candidates have been trading charges - and naming names when they do so.
Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean has been the most outspoken in his criticism of his fellow candidates, directing many of his attacks at John Kerry. Dean has suggested that the Massachusetts senator has waffled in his position on the U.S.-led war against Iraq.
In response, the Kerry campaign has complained about Dean's "incoherence."
The charges and countercharges have come as a recent poll in New Hampshire showed Kerry and Dean in a virtual tie for the lead.
Dean also has criticized Kerry and Sens. John Edwards, Joe Lieberman and Bob Graham for supporting a $350 billion tax cut, prompting Kerry to say that Dean has no tax plan.
Dean, who spoke at the fund-raiser, defended his actions, saying in an interview that his criticism has been focused on his rivals' positions on the issues.
"I don't think I have said anything personal," said Dean. "I think the only personal remarks were made by some campaign aides for Senator Kerry. I don't think there is anything personal about disagreeing with someone's positions or lack of positions."
By Christopher Graff