Wesley Clark has officially declared that he is running for President as a Democrat, thus ending months and months of fevered speculation among political junkies like yours truly. On paper, Clark is a dream candidate — smart, articulate, strong-but-internationalist on national defense, moderate on domestic policy — but he has not been tested in the political realm at all. His announcement speech included few specifics, but he’s promised major domestic and foreign policy addresses soon. He has gathered an experienced campaign team that includes many of the big Clinton-Gore guns. This could play out any number of different ways, but if he gets the Clinton fund-raising apparatus behind him and creates a favorable relationship with the testy national press, I think he’s the presumptive front-runner almost right out of the gate. At the very least it will be Clark vs. Dean for the nomination. I’m fond of Dean, but if Clark is even minimally competent on the campaign trail, I think he’s got a better shot at it. The next month or so will be _very_ politically interesting.
On a more bad-taste-in-your-mouth note, Hesiod has a post up listing the many ways that the enormous, disciplined, vicious, and utterly unprincipled right wing attack machine will attempt to slander and discredit Clark. I’ll tell you this: no matter who the Dem nominee is, the national campaign is going to be ugly. For one thing, the right has learned that dirty tricks work. For another, Bush has virtually no substantive achievements to run on, so it will be all about empty symbolism at the top and gutter fighting on the ground. Sigh.