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Friday, September 19, 2003

This is a very bad way to start a campaign:

IOWA CITY, Iowa - Democratic presidential candidate Wesley Clark backtracked from a day-old statement that he probably would have voted for the congressional resolution authorizing the use of force in Iraq, saying Friday he "would never have voted for this war."

The retired Army general, an opponent of the conflict, surprised supporters when he indicated in an interview with reporters Thursday that he likely would have supported the resolution. On Friday, Clark sought to clarify his comments in an interview with The Associated Press.

If Clark was trying to clarify his comments with the AP, he certainly wasn't very successful. It looks like a direct contradiction of what he had said before on the subject. Not only did he apparently say that he "probably" would have voted for the resolution, but he aligned his views with Lieberman, who still defends the war if not the way it was conducted.

True, Clark's campaign is very new, and it's expected that he'll make a few slips while trying to perfect his "message." Every candidate does this. But Iraq is arguably the most important issue of the past year, and Clark's strengths are supposedly foreign policy and national security. His lines on this issue should have been perfected before he entered the race. One would think that he'd have a clear and coherent view on Iraq, and wouldn't need to perfect any sort of "message," but this is politics after all.

If Clark takes the position that he really would have opposed the resolution on the Iraq war, then he will be fighting with Dean for the antiwar vote. But he's just lost some credibility with the antiwar folks, who won't be able to believe now that he fully opposed the war. And if he's claiming to be antiwar from now on, he'll have a hard time getting pro-war Democrats to support him.

I can't predict what the fallout from Clark's apparent contradiction will be. Maybe one of the articles really did take his comments out of context, and his position is clearer than it appears. Maybe nobody will notice and it will blow over. Maybe this is the start of a long campaign of excruciating wishy-washyness over the Iraq issue. I guess we'll find out.
--Posted at 10:57 PM | link

Wesley Clark has said that he "probably" would have voted for the resolution authorizing war with Iraq. He says that his views resemble those of Kerry and Lieberman, who supported the war in principle but question the way it was conducted.

This means that the antiwar segment of the Democratic party remains Dean's alone (well, also, Graham's, Sharpton's, Moseley Braun's and Kucinich's, but Dean is the only antiwar candidate who is doing well). It's becoming increasingly likely that the Democratic primaries will come down to a battle between Dean and some moderately pro-war candidate. Clark will have to fight for the Kerry/Lieberman/Gephardt Democrats, but I think he has a better chance than others to grab some Dean votes. Not all of Dean's supporters are absolutely opposed to the war; many of them backed Dean because they think that his aggressive style is the best way to beat Bush. We'll see defectors from Dean's campaign to Clark's, who think that that an even better way to beat Bush is to nominate a four-star general. For those who think that anyone would be better than Bush, a candidate's stance on specific policies isn't always relevant.
--Posted at 11:17 AM | link

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

(Via Atrios) The founders of discuss the general's candidacy in an interview with the Washington Post.

Daily Kos tells us about the people in Clark's organization and reminds us that the major movements to draft Wesley Clark haven't always gotten along so well.
--Posted at 11:04 PM | link

"My name is Wes Clark. I am from Little Rock, Arkansas. And I am here to announce that I intend to seek the presidency of the United States of America."

Thus began Clark's speech announcing his entry into the crowded field of Democratic nominees for president. A video of this speech is available on Clark's official campaign website: Now that Clark's entry is official, I'll add this website to the list in the left column.

One can assume that Clark will automatically be perceived as part of the "top tier" of Democratic candidates. Expectations are high, and it's not clear to what degree they'll be met. Some have forecast Clark as the all-but-inevitable winner of the Democratic primary, while others think he's entering too late to make much of a difference. We'll see in the coming weeks whether Clark will be able to catch up and be a real contender for the nomination.
--Posted at 2:39 PM | link

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

If you are interested in seeing Edwards' speech, the video is available on C-SPAN's website and it will soon be on the Edwards website also.
--Posted at 1:06 PM | link

So much for Edwards getting attention for his "official announcement." Today, there's much bigger news. Clark is in.

According to officials close to the campaign, Clark will announce his entry at 1 PM EST tomorrow in Little Rock, Arkansas, instead of waiting for his September 19 speech in Iowa.

Draft Clark 2004 announces "Mission Accomplished."
--Posted at 12:51 PM | link

In theory, today is John Edwards' best chance in weeks to attract some attention to his campaign. His "official announcement" of his candidacy takes place today in North Carolina, with events beginning at 10:30 AM EST. A webcast will be available on Edwards' website.

The big problem for Edwards is that Clark is also making an announcement later this week, and unlike Edwards' "official" entry, Clark's real entry could radically change the Democratic race. Edwards will get a mention in the news today, but he'll have to do something very dramatic to be remembered with everyone looking ahead to Clark's decision.
--Posted at 10:11 AM | link

Monday, September 15, 2003

An ABC News national poll of registered voters who are Democrats or Democratic-leaning independents showed Lieberman in the lead among all voters polled, with 21 percent. Dean, Kerry and Gephardt shared a near-tie for second, with 15, 14, and 14 percent, respectively. Among likely voters, however, Dean (20%), Kerry (19%), and Lieberman (19%) were in a statistical tie for first place. Lieberman's name recognition is still helping him win national polls, but this advantage evaporates when only "likely" voters are considered. (According to Daily Kos, a "likely" voter is usually defined as one who has voted in several recent elections, but ABC did not directly give a definition.)

Clark was included in both polls, and received 6 percent in each. His numbers can be expected to increase if he declares his candidacy this week. Below Clark on both polls, in slightly different orders but all in the two to five percent range, were Sharpton, Braun, Edwards, Graham, and Kucinich. Edwards isn't doomed yet, but he has to pump some life into his campaign soon to avoid obscurity. If Clark enters, Edwards will no longer be the only Southerner with a gift with words in the race. He is at high risk of becoming irrelevant, but it's still too early to predict his campaign's demise for sure.
--Posted at 9:15 PM | link

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