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Clark stumps in Upper Midwest
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Wesley Clark greets supporters in Fargo on Saturday. (MPR Photo/Dan Gunderson)
Democratic presidential hopeful Wesley Clark was in the Twin Cities this weekend to raise money for his campaign. Clark is one of nine candidates seeking the Democratic nomination. Observers say coming to Minnesota when most candidates are stumping for the nation's first primary in New Hampshire, sends a signal Clark is in the campaign for the long haul.

Bloomington, Minn. — At an event that was part fundraiser, part campaign rally, Clark told a crowd of about 300 people in Bloomington on Saturday that the Bush administration is not looking out for working people, and that as President he would repeal some of the Bush tax cuts and put the money toward Homeland Security.

He also criticized the administration's justification for going to war in Iraq.

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Image Speaking to Twin Cities supporters

"As you travel around this country, it just reinforces my determination that we're not only fighting to get us out of a war in a mess we shouldn't have been in in Iraq, but we're fighting to restore a sense of fairness and justice in the American economy," Clark said.

Clark joked about President Bush's very publicized landing on an the aircraft carrier in a flight suit, characterizing the president as "dancing around out there carrying a big helmet."

But, he told the crowd, he's not on the campaign trail to bash Bush, he's on the campaign trail to replace Bush. And many observers and supporters say that is Clark's calling card.

At a time when the country is at war, Clark's resume as a career military man positions him well to win against George W. Bush.

Clark first distinguished himself at West Point. He graduated first in his class, and went on to Great Britain as a Rhodes Scholar. In 1970, he was wounded while a soldier fighting in Vietnam. His final job with the Army was as Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, in 1997. He oversaw U.S. and NATO forces in Bosnia and Kosovo. He is scheduled to testify in the Hague on December 15 against former Yugoslavian President Slobodan Milosevic who's on trial for war crimes during the Balkan wars.

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Image With Clark from the start

That kind of military and foreign policy experience that appeals to supporters like Deborah Calvert of Minnetonka. Like many Clark supporters, she says she was drawn to the general long before he was a candidate. She used to watch him on television when he was a military analyst for CNN.

"His answers to the pressing questions of the day on terrorism and the war on Iraq and domestic policy were just so right on the mark that I just couldn't imagine he wasn't going to run. And I actually looked him up on the Internet, to see if there was any way to contact him. And a few weeks later there was a draft movement and I joined the draft movement," she said.

In an interview, Clark said he believes politics is about liberating people's energies.

"When it's done right, it's exciting it's liberating. It's the key to freedom. It shouldn't be about money, and it shouldn't be about who has the most money," he said.

Nonetheless, money is key. And Clark has far less of it than Democratic frontrunners Howard Dean, John Kerry, and Joe Lieberman.

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Image An exclusive interview

And money is a big reason why Clark stopped in Minnesota, and earlier Saturday, at a farm in Fargo.

But, as a latecomer to the race, Clark also needs to cultivate and maintain a wide base of support. According to University of Minnesota political scientist Larry Jacobs, Clark's midwest stops could also signal a long-term campaign strategy.

"This is not a candidate who looks like he's really gearing up for one or two primaries; this is someone who's looking down the road, past New Hampshire, and he's beginning to try to really encourage the organization of fundraising out in this part of the country, and also to begin to put together positions on some of the critical issues in Minnesota, the Dakotas, Iowa and Wisconsin," according to Jacobs.

One of those critical issues is how to support the rural economy.

At his farm stop in Fargo, Clark praised the family farm as important to the economy. He told supporters as President he would work to give farmers flexibility to develop new and innovative crops.

But Clark also says he is opposed to the energy bill currently stalled in the Senate, which would double the use of corn derived ethanol, and give an economic boost to Midwestern farmers. Clark says the bill benefits the oil industry, and he would support an approach that provides more incentives for renewable energy.

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