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  Wesley Clark's fledgling campaign hits its stride
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Last EditedArmyDem  Oct 13, 2003 11:53pm
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MediaNewspaper - USA Today
News DateMonday, October 13, 2003 06:00:00 AM UTC0:0
DescriptionBy Jill Lawrence, USA TODAY

DES MOINES — Wesley Clark used to run wars. Now, with the same persistence that propelled him to the rank of four-star general and supreme commander of NATO, he is prospecting for support, one vote at a time, in the nooks and crannies of early presidential primary states.

"I need you," Clark told a table of Drake University law students at the Drake Diner.

"I like the way he looks on paper," student Stephanie Nielsen said later. "Maybe."

There's no denying the appeal of Clark's star-spangled résumé. After just one month as a politician, the investment banker and CNN commentator from Little Rock has emerged as a strong competitor. Not only has he jumped ahead of his rivals in some polls and raised an impressive amount of money, he is also proving a capable campaigner. But Clark's campaign, unlike those of his well-established rivals, is still very much a start-up.

In week one, he gave conflicting statements on how he would have voted last October on the resolution authorizing force against Iraq. In week two, Democrats learned that he was still a registered lobbyist but not yet a registered Democrat. In week three, he tried out his third traveling press aide, his campaign manager quit and the Washington Post wondered whether he was violating federal election law by giving paid speeches. At the same point, the campaign had few senior aides, no field staff, one domestic policy proposal and no official strategy for winning the nomination.

By week four, however, computers and new aides were trickling in. Clark announced a senior staff, a series of four major speeches starting today, and an official theme: New American Patriotism. He returned money from speeches that he'd given while a candidate and canceled future engagements. And, in a sign that he's viewed as a threat, his rivals ganged up on him in a debate last Thursday night.

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