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Jewish World Review August 26, 2003 / 28 Menachem-Av, 5763

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More Dem candidates? Political celebrities, blank slates | Even though the number of Democrats running for President is already large, there are those who believe nine is not enough.

They believe that none has the stature to unify the party and defeat George W. Bush. And they are looking for someone else, a White Knight, to ride to the rescue.

The three White Knights mentioned most often are Al Gore, Hillary Clinton and retired Army Gen. Wesley Clark.

Hillary Clinton is one of the few political celebrities the Democrats have. Her recent book tour, which some thought would fall as flat Al Gore's did in 2002, has been a stunning success, and she has reportedly sold more than 1 million books, which is a whole lot.

Her popularity in New York remains high and, as "The Almanac of American Politics 2004" points out, New Yorkers have never rejected an incumbent Democratic senator.

All this would argue for a Presidential run in 2008, however, not 2004.

And even if she believes she has a reasonable chance of gaining the Presidency in 2004, wouldn't her chances in 2008 be better?

True, the risk exists that if she sits out 2004, a Democrat may win, making it difficult (though not impossible) for her to run in 2008. But that is a risk any thinking candidate would take.

So what is the real argument for Hillary to run in 2004? To save the party!

But she is only 55 and has plenty of time to save the party and further her own career in the process.

Chances of Hillary running this time around? Forget about it.

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Which brings us to Wesley Clark, who is largely a blank slate, which can be an advantage.

We know that he is from Arkansas, was NATO Supreme Commander from 1997 to 2000 and retired with the rank of four-star general. He graduated first in his class at West Point and is a Rhodes scholar. He fought in Vietnam and has a Silver Star, two Bronze Stars and a Purple Heart. He is currently chairman and CEO of his own consulting firm.

His big issue is national security. He believes the Iraq war was not justified and has made the United States less secure.

If he runs, it could be troublesome for Sen. John Kerry, who is currently the only combat veteran in the Democratic field and talks about it a lot, and for Howard Dean, whose position on the war is similar to Clark's, but Dean lacks Clark's military credentials. Also, those candidates who are basing their campaigns on their ability to carry Southern states — John Kerry of North Carolina and Bob Graham of Florida — might also lose voters to Southerner Clark.

On the other hand, Clark has never run for office, let alone the Presidency, would be starting out several million dollars behind the front-runners and would need to assemble a good staff very quickly. (The process of entering all those Democratic primaries and caucuses is a very complicated one.)

He will also have to demonstrate he is more than a one-issue candidate and can win the support of important Democratic constituencies like labor, minorities, women, etc. (Remember: He has to win the nomination before he can win the Presidency.)

Though the task is daunting, Clark sounds like he may be announcing his candidacy in the next few weeks. On CNN, Clark said recently he has found "an enormous hunger for leadership" as he travels around the country.

Translation: This hunger is not being satisfied by either George Bush or the nine Democrats currently running.

Odds of Clark actually running for President? Better than 50-50.

Odds of him actually winning the nomination? A lot longer than that.

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© 2002, Creators Syndicate