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February 11, 2004
The Last Ride of the Strange Ranger? Maybe Not

After a losing effort in Tennessee and a disastrous showing in Virginia, General Wesley Clark has decided to bow to reality -- for possibly the first time in his campaign -- and withdraw from the race:

Wesley Clark, battered by losses in his Southern base, was abandoning his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination and heading home to Arkansas to exit the race. ... Of the contests to date, Clark was only able to squeeze out a narrow victory in Oklahoma. The final blow came after third-place finishes Tuesday in primaries in Virginia and Tennessee, states that were part of the Southern strategy he thought would ride him to the nomination. Clark had hoped to emerge as a Southern challenger to the front-running Massachusetts senator, but Tuesday's outcome erased any hope of that happening. He got 23 percent of the vote in Tennessee, but only 9 percent in Virginia.

Today's announcement will end the short but odd journey of the former commander of NATO forces in the Balkans, who announced his candidacy before even officially becoming a Democrat and after two years of praising the present Republican administration. Along the way, Clark managed the impressive feat of reversing himself more often and in a shorter period of time than Howard Dean, who at least had the burden of a long political record. In many ways, Clark epitomized the plight of the Democrats in this election cycle: railing against Bush's supposed unilateralism, but unable to articulate anything he would have done differently; claiming to have opposed the war all along until Congressional testimony from 2002 and an op-ed piece floated to the surface; insisting in New Hampshire that he supported abortion up until the moment of birth, and then later describing himself as pro-life.

Now, since he decided to acknowledge defeat, even if somewhat tardily, buzz about a potential VP nomination has started:

New to politics, Clark may still have a future. At 59, he is young enough for another race and, with his military experience, he might fit on a wartime Democratic ticket.

Two factors make Clark an attractive choice for VP in somewhat deluded Democratic circles: He's a military man and he's a Southerner. Since Terry McAuliffe and John Kerry have made military service such an issue that even the National Guard doesn't qualify anymore, John Edwards doesn't make the grade (no service at all). It wouldn't surprise me if Kerry chose Clark, even after Clark denigrated Kerry's military service, just to oppose Bush's position as a war president. Well, as Kerry is fond of saying, bring 'em on. If there was one candidate who would have been easier to shred on policy than Howard Dean, it's Wesley Clark, and all that choice would do would be to open up Kerry's flank for attack. Being military men, I'm sure they know what that means.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at February 11, 2004 6:14 AM

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