Clark, Lieberman to bypass Iowa

2 Democrats will focus on more winnable states

October 20, 2003|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

WASHINGTON -- Two prominent Democratic presidential candidates, Gen. Wesley K. Clark and Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut, have decided to bypass Iowa's presidential caucuses, angering some party leaders there and signaling what could be a very different nomination battle next year.

Lieberman's advisers said yesterday that they would pull out all but one of his 17 staff members in Iowa and send them to states considered more receptive to his appeal.

Clark's aides said he would maintain a minimal presence in Iowa, which has the nation's earliest presidential selection contest. Last week, he hired the former Iowa coordinator for Sen. Bob Graham of Florida, who quit the race two weeks ago, and dispatched her to other states.

Clark's advisers said they concluded last week that his late-starting candidacy had left him unable to assemble the intricate organization needed to win the Iowa race.

"What we'll do is what I call the `General MacArthur strategy,'" a senior Clark adviser said. "General MacArthur was very successful in World War II because he skipped over the Japanese strongholds, where they were more organized, and instead picked islands that were favorable or neutral terrain. Which means we would choose not to focus resources on Iowa and instead focus them on New Hampshire and on Feb. 3," when there are Democratic contests in seven states.

Lieberman's advisers said his moderate positions on issues that are big in Iowa, including his strong support for the war in Iraq and support of treaties lowering trade barriers, are problematic in a contest that attracts many liberal and blue-collar voters. His decision marks something of a retreat by the man who was his party's vice-presidential candidate in 2000.

"I think it's pretty safe to say that there's recognition inside the campaign that Iowa is not now, and will never be, Lieberman country," one adviser said.

Said another, "There's no victory in being fourth in Iowa."

The decisions drew a sharp reaction from state party leaders and from other Democratic candidates. Several predicted that Clark and Lieberman would come to regret it, noting that no one who skipped the caucuses had ever won the Democratic nomination.

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