JACKSON, Tenn. – Democratic presidential hopeful Wesley Clark (search) on Wednesday accused his rivals of hypocrisy in voting for policy measures in the Senate that they now assail amid signs of financial problems within his own campaign.
About 100 staffers in the Clark campaign have voluntarily agreed to forgo pay for a week to help fund campaign ads in Tennessee, said Eli Segal, the campaign chairman. Clark has spent roughly $1 million in television, radio and direct mail ads in the state.
"It's absolutly untrue" that the campaign is out of money, said Segal, but rather "they did it for the good of the cause."
While campaigning Wednesday at a tractor factory in West Tennessee, Clark told supporters, "I don't understand how guys like John Kerry (search) and John Edwards (search), my two opponents here in Tennessee, can criticize the No Child Left Behind Act that President Bush originated when they themselves voted for it."
"I don't know how John Kerry and John Edwards can claim to defend civil liberties and criticize the Patriot Act. They voted for it," Clark said. "John Kerry and John Edwards are criticizing the war in Iraq even though they gave him the blank check and voted for it."
Clark also accused both senators of voting for Bush tax cuts, a charge that a Kerry aide disputed.
"Not only has Wesley Clark broken his promises of running a positive campaign, but if he's going to turn negative he'd better get his facts straight," Kerry spokesman David Wade said. "John Kerry led the fight against the Bush tax cuts back when Wesley Clark was praising George Bush and his right-wing crowd at GOP fund-raisers."
Clark, a retired four-star Army general who grew up in Arkansas, defeated Edwards and Kerry in Oklahoma but lost badly to Edwards in South Carolina, the campaign's first Southern contest. Kerry, the leader in victories and delegates, won the five other states that had elections Tuesday.
The Oklahoma victory breathed new life into the Clark campaign. After flipping pancakes at a Memphis diner Wednesday morning, Clark leaped atop the counter and told patrons, "It's great to be here in Tennessee, but I want to say, Oklahoma is OK."
Tennessee and Virginia hold primaries next Tuesday, but aides said Clark was concentrating on Tennessee, where he was expected to face strong competition from Edwards. His campaign has spent heavily on television advertising here as well as in Virginia and Wisconsin, which holds its primary Feb. 17. But aides said the campaign may end its advertising in those states and make Tennessee the make-or-break contest.
Merle Black, a scholar of Southern politics at Emory University in Atlanta, said Clark faces two hurdles in attempting to overtake his rivals. "He wants to catch Kerry but needs to beat Edwards in a Southern state," Black said. "And Edwards has much better political skills than Clark in terms of delivering a message."
Clark placed a distant second to Kerry in Arizona and North Dakota. He finished well behind Kerry in New Mexico but just ahead of Howard Dean.
Clark stressed his Southern roots throughout the campaign but forfeited South Carolina to Edwards, who was born there, to concentrate his campaign efforts on Oklahoma, Arizona and New Mexico.
"I had to make a choice between South Carolina or the rest of the country. There just wasn't a way to do everything. And I'm very happy with our showing in Oklahoma," Clark told reporters Wednesday.