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Wesley Clark to Run for President

Aired September 16, 2003 - 10:34   ET


DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: U.S. Senator John Edwards formally announces his presidential bid and does so by highlighting his blue- collar roots. The moderate Democrat is making his announcement at the North Carolina textile mill where his father worked for 36 years. That announcement, though, is going to be overshadowed just a little bit, because we are getting word at CNN that former NATO Supreme Commander U.S. General Wesley Clark will announce tomorrow that he is entering the race for the presidency, bringing that field to 10.
How does affect the race. For a closer look at that, the very crowded field of Democrats, let's bring in our Bill Schneider to look at all of this.

Bill, nine unhappy Democrats in America today I would imagine.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: And then there were 10. When Wesley Clark gets in tomorrow, there will be ten Democrats and, of course, a lot of people will think he could be a formidable candidate. What he's doing right now is stepping on poor John Edwards story. John Edwards is trying to get a second start to his campaign, because he hasn't gotten much traction so far.

Wesley Clark, a lot of fascination with Wesley Clark, because he was the supreme commando of NATO. The United States is engaged in a war on terrorism. He has powerful military credentials which most of the Democrats running cannot claim. Only John Kerry has a distinguished service record. But this guy was a general. And a lot of Democrats say there's the answer to all our prayers. I don't think the war in Kosovo was anything like World War II. While it was a victory for NATO and the United States, I don't think it was -- a lot of people remember that war very much.

KAGAN: Well, He'll be trying to remind a bunch of people starting tomorrow, no doubt. Let's talk about John Edwards, a man we expect to hear from the in the next hour. Didn't he already announce he's running for president. Is this his, oh yes, by the way, I am running for president announcement?

SCHNEIDER: Well, he better remind people. He was one of the first to announce his candidacy way back on January 2nd, the day after New Year's Day, when he had it all to himself. He stood on his driveway and he said he was going to run for president, and he has been running. He's participated in the debates. His problem is he can't seem to climb out of single digits in the national polls, and he's not doing that well in the two key initial states Iowa and New Hampshire. North Carolina is his own state. But you know, there's a poll coming out today in North Carolina that shows if he were the Democratic nominee, George Bush would defeat John Edwards by a sizable margin, 11 points, in his own state of North Carolina. So he's trying to get a whole new start today, and here's Wesley Clark stepping on his story.

KAGAN: Overshadowing that to a lot of people is what's taking place in California. The latest chapter coming yesterday, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals saying whoa, hold on, no election on October 7th. Bill, do you think this one is going to the Supreme Court?

SCHNEIDER: I think it is going to the supreme court. It can be appealed by a couple of sources, parties to this case. It's like canceling the Super Bowl. All of a sudden they say, whoops, the field is wet, we can't play the game. I mean, this is really cruel and unusual punishment. What the court decided, the appeals court decided, is that California is hereby sentenced to an additional five months of campaigning, and that is, I think, going to be very tough. You could have voter fatigue, you could have fund-raising fatigue, and believe me, you're going to have press fatigue if the election is delayed until March.

KAGAN: And yet, Governor Gray Davis, if he is capable of showing any kind of excitement, I think he was doing it yesterday. I think he saying yippee, because it could benefit him.

SCHNEIDER: I think it does benefit Gray Davis. He expects recall fever, which has been very hot for the last month or two, to diminish as the race goes into month after month after month. He has one advantage that none of the other candidates have. He is the governor, and in those five months, he can do things for people. He can sign laws. His critics say he just panders. Nevertheless, he can make it up to the voters and mend fences and do things no other candidate can do. And if the election is in March, that's the date of the Democratic presidential primary, which will bring a lot of loyal, partisan Democrats out to vote, and they could save Gray Davis. So Democrats are very happy.

KAGAN: But what do you think this does to Arnold Schwarzenegger and his campaign?

SCHNEIDER: Big problem. Arnold Schwarzenegger will be subject to a lot of scrutiny in an additional five-month campaign. Statements he's made in the past, his finances, and he'll have to answer a lot more specific questions about his views on the issues, and that's something he hasn't really been able to do, or willing to do in this short campaign. Another problem is that his competitor on the Republican side, Tom McClintock, the state senator, who's very conservative, has been gaining momentum. In a longer campaign, Tom McClintock might be able to surpass Arnold Schwarzenegger, and then the Republicans will be stuck with two candidates, because it's going to be hard to say to McClintock, you should get out of the race and support Schwarzenegger if McClintock is ahead of Schwarzenegger.

KAGAN: A virtual political feast. I know you love it. SCHNEIDER: Absolutely.

KAGAN: Thanks for your insight. Bill Schneider, thank you for that.


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