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"When a Fight Starts, Look at Who Joins"

That aphorism about politics, from E.E. Schattschneider's The Semi-Sovereign Nation, will be a good rule if and when General Wesley Clark joins the Democratic contest for president. Leaving aside all the usual questions about whether he's too late, can raise the money, etc., let's look at who joins the fight with Clark. Most of the candidates, even those most threatened by Clark, like Kerry, will probably hold back, simply because Clark must remain available as a vice-presidential option, and no one wants to a vicious attack to come back and haunt their choice of a running mate.

But, if Clark really gets momentum, he is a mortal threat to the White House. Rove can't even let him get the first bit of traction and name recognition. So, expect to see the first test of the Republican take-down machine against Clark. And, if he can survive it, we'll know something about him that we don't yet know about any of the other candidates.

By contrast, the White House's interest is in holding back on all of the other Democrats, letting them knock each other down a bit, and then saving the real ammunition for next year.

Again, this isn't an endorsement of Clark, just an interesting note about how different his role in the race will be.

Posted by Mark Schmitt on September 9, 2003 | Permalink


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