Politics & Policy

Clark’S Risky Strategy

Focusing on Kerry.

According to the Manchester Union Leader: “Retired General Wesley Clark yesterday noted he ’stayed with the U.S. Army’ through the Vietnam War, setting up a contrast with White House foe John Kerry, who left the military and became a war critic.”

This new hard-edged tactic would seem to suggest the Clark campaign feels Kerry’s big win in Iowa is a real threat to the General’s chances in N.H.–and the only way to win is to tear him down. But among most Democrat primary voters up here, Kerry’s life story likely resonates much better than Clark’s.

Particularly with the antiwar sentiment that remains strong with liberals here, an ex-military man who protested the Vietnam War would certainly be more attractive than a career military man. And while the stories of Kerry’s activities in that war are prevalent here, the fact that Clark was wounded in Vietnam doesn’t seem to have penetrated as deeply.

Much has been made in the past week or so about Clark aide Chris Lehane’s prowess at destroying opponents–be they Democrat or Republican. But to make a strong showing next Tuesday, Gen. Clark will need to develop and deliver a much more convincing message about why voters should choose him over Kerry.

Kerry may have lost the ability to speak, but Clark is the one that needs to find his voice–and soon–if he is to survive.

Chip Griffin is a political consultant in New Hampshire.

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