Observers predict Clark’s influence on Dean’s standing

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(Host) Retired General Wesley Clark has formally entered the race to win the Democratic presidential nomination. Some political observers believe that Clark’s candidacy could help the campaign of former governor Howard Dean.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) Clark, a four-star general who’s a former commander of NATO forces, becomes the tenth person in the Democratic race.

In the past few months he’s been an advisor to Howard Dean on military issues and Clark has expressed strong opposition to the administration’s war in Iraq. Many political observers are speculating about how Clark’s entry into the Democratic contest will affect the race.

Middlebury College political science professor Eric Davis thinks Clark’s candidacy could be beneficial to Howard Dean’s campaign for a number of reasons of reasons:

(Davis) “In some ways Clark’s entry into the race also legitimizes Dean’s anti-war campaign because people can now say, Well this isn’t just the former governor of a small state saying that the Bush administration’s war policy in Iraq was wrong. It’s the former commanding general of NATO, someone who has a military background, who has expertise on military matters.”

(Kinzel) Davis says the media attention surrounding Clark’s candidacy will also give Dean some respite from a barrage of criticism that’s emerged in the last week from some of the other candidates in the race:

(Davis) “What Dean really needs to be focusing on over the next couple of weeks is tightening up some aspects of his operation. Perhaps cutting back on some of the unscripted interviews with the press, building up policy capacity – particularly in the foreign policy area, building organizations in states after Iowa and New Hampshire. And a lot of that work is perhaps best done sort of quietly and out of the media’s gaze.”

(Kinzel) Clark is also expected to actively use the Internet to build support and money for his campaign. Carol Darr is an Internet expert at George Washington University. Darr thinks Clark will aggressively use the Internet much in the same way that Howard Dean’s campaign has. Clark is hoping to raise a million and a half dollars over the Internet this week:

(Darr) “If they made good on that promise he will have raised more in the first week than any of the other nine candidates. Clark has the advantage that he’s been able to learn from Dean. On the down side, he’s starting later. But the Dean folks have taught the Clark folks a lot of good lessons.”

(Kinzel) Clark is expected to participate in the next Democratic debate, scheduled for September 25.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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