Clark to Enter Presidential Contest

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Retired Army Gen. Wesley Clark (search) on Tuesday decided to toss his hat in the ring for the 2004 presidential race, Fox News confirmed.

"He's made his decision and will announce it tomorrow in Little Rock," Mark Fabiani, a spokesman for Clark, said. The announcement will be made at 1 p.m. EDT Wednesday in Arkansas, sources said.

Officials close to Clark said he told his fledgling campaign team that he's in the race.

Clark's move would make him the 10th contender for the Democratic nomination to run against President Bush.

Clark, who was careful not to confirm that he is a candidate, said in an interview with The Associated Press that there's still room and time for another White House campaign.

"It's not too late to get in the race if I decide to run," he said outside his headquarters in Little Rock.

Asked if he is ready to start telling Americans his positions on domestic policy, Clark said, "I'll do my best, but there will be a lot of things that I don't know right away."

"I want to learn," he said. "I've got a whole period of time. I've got to go around America. I want to talk to people about the issues."

While sources told Fox News earlier that New York Sen. Hillary Clinton will serve as Clark's campaign co-chairman while numerous other Arkansas-based supporters of her husband, former President Bill Clinton, were also lending a hand in the campaign, the senator's office told Fox News late in the day that she had not agreed to serve on the campaign.

Clark aides later said they had miscommunicated with Clinton's office and no determination had been made about her participation.

News of Clark's planned entry into the race did not come as a surprise to many.

Clark gathered advisers at his small, low-slung brick headquarters on the banks of the Arkansas River in Little Rock on Tuesday to discuss strategy. Supporters have spent months urging him to run. They've lined up $1 million in pledges and have worked to develop an organization Clark can use in the race.

Clark, 58, has no political experience. He only recently declared himself a Democrat and has launched a handful of very partisan attacks against Bush; particularly saying the president didn't effectively build international coalitions in the war on terrorism.

Clark, from Arkansas, has been a vocal critic of the way the U.S. approached the Iraq war. That stance aligns him more with announced candidates Howard Dean (search), Sen. Bob Graham (search) of Florida and Rep. Dennis Kucinich (search) of Ohio as the most vocal anti-war candidates.

The four-star general thinks his military background will counter Bush's political advantage as a wartime commander in chief, friends say.

Pundits had mixed reactions to the news.

"He's kind of a wild card there," said Michael Barone, a Fox News contributor and senior writer for U.S. News and World Report.

He said recent polls show that Clark's opposition to the way Bush approached Iraq may give him a boost in the Democratic primary.

But his lack of political experience makes him "an untested commodity," Barone said. "He's going to be subject to more scrutiny than he's used to."

"His entry into the race makes it harder for other candidates who are all trying to be anybody but Dean," added Tom Edsall of The Washington Post, referring to the former Vermont governor who currently is ahead of the other contenders in the race.

Dean has made a name for himself by blasting the Bush administration for a myriad of topics, most notably, the Iraq war. Many experts say he represents the extreme left wing of the Democratic Party and likely won't appeal to middle-of-the-road Democrats. He has also drawn fire lately for seemingly backpedaling on previous statements.

Fabiani, who served as spokesman for former Vice President Al Gore's 2000 campaign, is part of a cadre of former Gore and Bill Clinton advisers, who are now rallying behind Clark.

In addition to Fabiani, among those attending the meeting were Ron Klain, a strategist in Al Gore's 2000 campaign; Washington lawyer Bill Oldaker; Vanessa Weaver, a Clinton appointee; Skip Rutherford, a Clinton fund-raiser who lives here; George Bruno, a New Hampshire activist; and Peter Knight, a Washington lobbyist and longtime Gore fund-raiser. Bruce Lindsey, former White House aide and now an Arkansas lawyer, also backs Clark.

Clinton had urged Clark to enter the race, but neither he nor Gore is expected to take sides in the primary fight.

Clark's team was exploring several venues in Little Rock for an announcement, including a park named for World War II Gen. Douglas MacArthur (search), a Little Rock native. This site would underscore what Clark's advisers consider his greatest strength: his longtime military background.

Just four months before voting begins, Clark would be competing against candidates who have had months to raise money, build organizations in key states and recruit the party's top political talent.

But the strategists assembled on Tuesday are among the party's best. An Internet-fueled draft-Clark movement has developed the seeds of a campaign organization and more than $1 million in pledges.

Clark is a Rhodes scholar, first in his 1966 class at West Point, White House fellow, head of the U.S. Southern Command and NATO commander during the 1999 campaign in Kosovo.

Nearly 12 years after Clinton announced his first campaign, Arkansans were excited at the prospect of backing another favorite son.

"He almost has to (run) in light of everything that's happened," said Little Rock lawyer Phillip McMath, a friend of Clark's since ninth grade. "He seems to be campaigning and getting his ducks in a row."

Jean Wallace, a classmate of Clark's from grammar school, organized Warriors for Wes, a group of Clark classmates named after the mascot at their alma mater, Hall High School. She said the supporters were ready to travel the country to tout Clark's candidacy the way "Friends of Bill" organizations crisscrossed the country campaigning for Clinton.

"We are eagerly awaiting an announcement very shortly. There are thousands of people across the country doing the same thing, people who have put their hearts and time and resources into this effort," Jeff Dailey, spokesman for Draft Clark for President 2004, said.

The group, one of several Draft Clark groups, boasts of 166 coordinators in 50 states.

"In New Hampshire, there are many people ready to move out if they're given the green light," said Bruno, one of Clinton's earlier backers in the key primary voting state.

Clark is scheduled to deliver a speech at the University of Iowa on Sept. 19.

The announcement came the same day as freshman North Carolina Sen. John Edwards (search) formally announced that he was running for the nomination as well. Edwards' move came as no surprise either, since he has been actively campaigning for some time and has even taken part in debates with other candidates.

Fox News' Carl Cameron and Liza Porteus and The Associated Press contributed to this report.