OKLAHOMA CITY – Wesley Clark (search) claimed his first victory in his quest for the Democratic nomination on Tuesday, as several media outlets, including The Associated Press, declared the retired Army general the winner by a narrow margin.
But with Clark and Sen. John Edwards (search) within about 1,000 votes of each other, Fox News declared the race too close to call as of early Wednesday morning.
That sliver of a lead did not keep Clark from celebrating late Tuesday night.
Clark told supporters that "as an old soldier from Arkansas, I couldn't be prouder" of his finish there.
"Today, across the country, Democrats went to the polls and tonight the people have spoken, and the message they sent couldn't be clearer: America wants a higher standard of leadership in Washington."
With seven states voting on Tuesday, Clark had a narrow lead in Oklahoma, a neighbor to his home state of Arkansas, and placed a distant second to Sen. John Kerry (search) in Arizona and North Dakota. He was in a tight race for second in New Mexico as well.
The results of Tuesday's contests failed to offer a clear roadmap for Clark's candidacy, although aides said the campaign had enough money to compete in Tennessee and Virginia, which hold contests next Tuesday, and Wisconsin, which votes Feb. 17.
Clark, a former NATO supreme commander, had stressed his Southern roots throughout the campaign but forfeited South Carolina to native son Edwards in order to concentrate his campaign efforts on Oklahoma, Arizona and New Mexico.
Clark, speaking before earlier Tuesday evening, said he felt he had made a difference in the race no matter what the outcome.
"I'm not part of the Washington problem," Clark said. "I did not vote for No Child Left Behind. I did not vote to go to war in Iraq. I did not vote, ever, to cut veterans benefits. You can go on and on and on."
While Clark and his aides sought to put a positive face on their effort, Clark's son, Wesley Clark Jr., expressed bitter disappointment in his father's first experience with electoral politics.
"It's really been disillusioning," the 34-year-old Clark told reporters. "You go out and see the way politics really works. It is a dirty business filled with a lot of people pretending to be a lot of things they are not."
Still, the younger Clark had nothing but praise for his father's effort.
"He did his best, and I respect him like hell for it."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.