Yesterday I helped out with a NY fundraising lunch for Gen Wesley Clark. Interesting mix at the lunch, upper east side millionaire milieu. Clark seems a good guy and a formidable candidate, but the belatedness of his campaign leaves him ill-prepared for the rigors of the trail, I fear -- although the media seems remarkably sympathetic to his candidacy (as are most people i've met).
I think that could be chalked up to the fact that he's very articulate and credible when he speaks of the administration's shortcomings in the war on terrorism and the invasion of Iraq, and he's good looking, etc., but also because he hasn't really articulated or defined a strong position on other issues, pet democratic issues like social security, taxes, medicare, etc. So there's really little about his platform to object to or debate, because there's very little to his platform, period. My estimation is that this lack of definition is a short term advantage and a long term deficiency.
In any event, I think most people want to oust Bush and believe that almost any other presidency would be better than a Bush presidency. There's also the view that Clark is more attractive to the swing voters, the independents, the nebulous 'center' of American politics, and this may well be true. I still have the nagging feeling that Howard Dean has done more than any other Democratic candidate to get out the vote and rock it, short of appearing on MTV (like Clinton did). He's also got loads of money compared to the other Democratic candidates, although Clark has done an able job of raising money over the 28 days that have elapsed of his campaign. A lot of the people who have given money to Dean are now giving money to Clark.
My thought is that Dean is doing more to win the actual Democratic primary, while Clark is still busy answering questions about how he came to be a Democrat. The nomination is between the two of them, and I might
give the edge to Dean as it stands now, but no one at this stage would deny that Clark would be an invaluable asset as a vice president, if not as the actual presidential nominee. I wonder how it's going to work out.
I'd prefer a Dean/Clark ticket because it would absorb the gains of Dean's campaign (he set the Democratic agenda on attacking Bush and has galvanized that portion of the electorate who voted for Nader or didn't vote at all, part of his thing being registering non-voters as Democrats and asking them for small donations that have added up) while also assimilating Wesley Clark's credibility and apparent strength of character. That would be the most formidable Democratic ticket.
It is conceivable, however, that either of them would spurn a nod as the vice president of the other, which would leave the door wide open, in my view, for that smart young John Edwards to fill the role for whomever comes out on top. He's young, Southern, and has a Kennedy quality about him. It's also highly unlikely that Edwards will win the presidential nomination and he has already forfeited running for his seat in the Senate to run for pres, so he'll be out of a job when he fails in his presidential bid. A perfect runner-up VP if either Dean or Clark decides to not work with the other. (It's rumored that Dean already approached Clark about running as his vice president, and that this kind of irked Clark. This was before Clark declared his candidacy.)