WASHINGTON - Retired Army Gen. Wesley Clark has told friends he is likely to become the 10th Democratic presidential candidate, a move that could shake up the crowded field just four months before the first ballots are cast.
Clark, 58, has not made a final decision, but the Arkansas resident is aggressively recruiting campaign staff and plans to announce his intentions next week, friends and party officials said on condition of anonymity, the Associated Press reported.
Clark confirmed that he was putting a campaign plan together but chalked it up to the type of "parallel planning" common in the military.
"If you want to find out whether you're going to go ahead, you have to have financial resources and you have to have staff available," he told the Associated Press.
While mulling his options, Clark has met with several presidential contenders who covet his endorsement and might consider him for a vice presidential slot. He met Saturday with former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, who said it is too soon to talk about political alliances.
"There is a lot of vetting that would have to be done before you would have those kinds of discussions," Dean said when asked whether he had discussed the vice presidency with Clark.
Clark has a resume that unnerves potential rivals - Rhodes scholar, first in his 1966 class at West Point, White House fellow, head of the U.S. Southern Command and NATO commander during the 1999 campaign in Kosovo.
"He's all potential and upside," said Democratic strategist Donna Brazile. "The question will be whether he could put together the organization so late."
An Internet-fueled draft-Clark movement has developed the seeds of a campaign and more than $1-million in pledges.
Senior party leaders say Clark or his advisers have contacted several prominent Democrats, including Mark Fabiani, who ran Al Gore's communications team in the 2000 campaign.
"He's asked me to give him some advice on a variety of campaign issues this week, which I am doing," said Fabiani, who indicated he would consider working for Clark should he run. "He's a very impressive man and I think he would be a powerful candidate."