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Clark’s Hill Role Step Toward ’08?

Retired Gen. Wesley Clark has taken a high-profile role, both on and off Capitol Hill, as a Democratic spokesman and foreign policy adviser, stoking speculation that he is planning another national campaign in 2008.

Clark has emerged as a regular presence on Capitol Hill in the last few months.

His allies paint him as a “go-to guy” for Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) on foreign policy matters, pointing out that he has been repeatedly invited by the duo to address their respective caucuses on the handling of current military situations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Jim Manley, a Reid spokesman, noted that Clark is a member of the the two leaders’ National Secu- rity Advisory Group.

“He is someone that Sen. Reid will continue to look to for advice,” Manley added.

Pelosi and Clark are personal friends and have known each other for years.

Clark has contacted a number of former Congressional backers of his 2004 campaign, including Reps. Charlie Rangel (N.Y.) and Rahm Emanuel (Ill.), although he has not formally broached a potential presidential race with them, according to informed sources.

He also testified April 6 before the House Armed Services Committee regarding the war in Iraq and the previous month addressed a closed door-briefing for Democratic Senate staff focused on national security. He will be back in D.C. on June 21 to host a fundraiser for a former aide running for Congress.

Outside of Washington, D.C., Clark is also working to keep himself in the news with a busy speaking schedule that will include a trip to the presidential proving ground of New Hampshire on June 12 where he will address the annual Flag Day Dinner of the Manchester City Democratic Committee.

All of this activity has created the impression in Democratic circles that Clark is actively weighing a bid, pending how the field ultimately shakes out.

Erick Mullen, a spokesman for Clark, said it was “ridiculous” to assume that the general was running for president but did little to deny that it is under consideration.

“All options are on the table,” Mullen said.

A second Clark candidacy seemed unimaginable when he dropped from the Democratic race on Feb. 11 of last year, just five months after formally announcing his candidacy.

Clark entered the contest as the alternative to then frontrunning Vermont Gov. Howard Dean. Clark opposed the war in Iraq but had the military credentials as a retired four-star general to give his stance heft.

But, Clark quickly stumbled when he waffled on whether he would have supported a Congressional resolution authorizing the use of force in Iraq, and then decided not to compete in Iowa’s first-in-the-nation caucuses, zapping any momentum he might have hoped for.

Clark placed third in New Hampshire behind Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry and Dean. A win in Oklahoma’s Feb. 3 primary kept his hopes alive but those hopes were dashed a week later when, banking on his appeal as a Southerner, he failed to win in either Virginia or Tennessee.

In spite of that spotty record as a first-time candidate, Chris Lehane, a senior adviser to the Clark campaign and veteran of Al Gore’s 2000 presidential effort, cast the 2004 race as a success.

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