Wesley Clark Celebrates His Victory In Oklahoma
Larry W. Smith  /  Getty Images
Clark addresses supporters at a primary night party  in Oklahoma City.
updated 2/4/2004 10:13:54 AM ET 2004-02-04T15:13:54

Retired Gen. Wesley Clark grabbed the first victory of his presidential campaign Tuesday in Oklahoma and declared that voters were sending the message that they wanted “a higher standard of leadership in Washington.”

Clark told supporters that “as an old soldier from Arkansas, I couldn’t be prouder” of his finish in his neighboring state.

“Today, across the country, Democrats went to the polls, and tonight the people have spoken, and the message they sent couldn’t be clearer: America wants a higher standard of leadership in Washington,” Clark said.

With seven states voting Tuesday, Clark won a narrow victory in Oklahoma and placed a distant second to Sen. John Kerry in Arizona and North Dakota. He was in a tight race for second in New Mexico, as well.

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Still a tough row to hoe
The results of Tuesday’s contests failed to offer a clear road map for Clark’s candidacy, although aides said the campaign had enough money to compete in Tennessee and Virginia, which hold contests next Tuesday, and Wisconsin, which votes Feb. 17.

Clark, a former supreme commander of NATO, had stressed his Southern roots throughout the campaign, but he forfeited South Carolina to native son John Edwards in order to concentrate his campaign efforts on Oklahoma, Arizona and New Mexico.

While Clark and his aides sought to put a positive face on their effort, Clark’s son, Wesley Clark Jr., expressed bitter disappointment in his father’s first experience with electoral politics.

“It’s really been disillusioning,” Clark Jr., 34, told reporters. “You go out and see the way politics really works. It is a dirty business filled with a lot of people pretending to be a lot of things they are not.”

Still, the younger Clark had nothing but praise for his father’s effort.

“He did his best, and I respect him like hell for it.”

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