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Josh Marshall on Clark

Talking Points Memo: by Joshua Micah Marshall

As usual, I agree with every word of Talking Points' assessment of General Clark. Like him, I've learned to resist unconventional candidates, and I know how quickly the gloss of a perfect candidate can rub off. But, so much about this seems just right -- frankly, even the timing. Maybe it would have been better if he started earlier, but as it is, Clark is entering at the very moment that a general consensus among moderate/liberal Democrats seems to have formed that (1) none of the other candidates can stop Dean and (2) Dean has some strengths, but also some real weaknesses -- of style, not ideology -- that actually will make it very difficult for him to beat Bush. And I don't worry about the money. If Clark clicks, it will roll in. The reason candidates like Gary Hart stumbled in the past was not just that they didn't have the Internet. It was that they were relying on a victory in New Hampshire to generate enthusiasm and enough funds to get them into other states, that is, to build an organization and buy time just a few weeks later. If Clark clicks in October, he will still have five months to come up with the money for New Hampshire and the rest of the primary cycle.

I would add just two things to watch to TPM's list:

1. How fast can Clark sideline the www.draftclark crowd, without totally alienating them? It's great to have enthusiastic support from people who aren't traditionally political. But a campaign can't be driven by people who are so obsessed with the candidate that they produce "fanfic" about him! (I've seen that movie before.) Part of Dean's sudden problem is that he mistakes the intensity of his supporters for depth of support. People like Ron Klain understand that politics is about flawed people contesting for support among millions of people who don't have either much time or much trust to offer. People who are devoting every waking hour to blogging every single mention of Clark in some other blog or local paper are not too likely to understand that.

2. A point I mentioned in an earlier post:: How hard does the White House hit him, and what do they hit him with? TPM points out that he will be tested by fire, but it strikes me that most of the Democrats have to hold back a bit, or operate by stealth (hint -- Chris Lehane is available), simply because everyone would still want the option to take Clark as the Vice Presidential nominee. The White House, on the other hand, can ignore all the other Dems and slam them later, but they must take down Clark before he gains any momentum at all. Facing the Republican machine is not at all similar to the barbs Dean and Kerry have slung at each other. It's real war, with weapons. If Clark survives it, it's further proof that he will be a strong nomine.

Posted by Mark Schmitt on September 16, 2003 | Permalink


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