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td height="3" align="left" valign="top" class="Arial11BlackBold">Clark's 'Troops' Stand By For Orders on the Ground
By Jonathan Finer, Washington Post Staff Writer
DOVER, N.H. -- The office has all the usual trappings of a campaign headquarters: a stable of idealistic volunteers, red, white and blue bunting and news articles tacked up on a bulletin board.

But the eight large photographs that plaster the walls show the graying visage of a man who has not yet said he will run for president. Which prompts a question for those already crisscrossing New Hampshire on behalf of retired Gen. Wesley Clark: How do you run a campaign without a candidate?

"We can't contact him, and he's had no communication with us, but we just want him to know we are here with a structure when he decides to enter the race," said Susan Putney, the New Hampshire director for Draft Clark 2004. "It is already underway."

On a recent Wednesday evening at the office -- which opened in July on the same Dover street as the front-running campaigns of Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) and former Vermont governor Howard Dean -- a dozen volunteers, ranging in age from 20 to 65, met over pizza to discuss strategy. Their reverential tones -- "He can save us from where we are headed," "He's an easy sell if you look at his record," "He doesn't even use notes when he speaks" -- were part political movement and part fan club.

The volunteers acknowledge that they have no inside information about whether Clark, a former NATO commander who has never run for political office, will run and what their role will be, if he does. "We don't say if, but when he runs," said Putney, who scours news coverage daily for hints about Clark's intentions. "There's no way to know what it'll mean for us. He may want to identify his own people, and that is fine."

The speculation is that Clark finally will make his announcement this week, before a speech in Iowa on Friday. But his New Hampshire volunteers aren't waiting. Most work full-time jobs but spend their free time crashing other candidates' events with "Draft Clark" signs in tow. They have compiled a database of nearly 1,000 supporters.

Few have worked on a political campaign before, and they have learned lessons already: People like stickers better than pins, three signs on a yard stick make a bigger impression than one, and don't forget clipboards to take down supporters' names. "Also, we need computer geeks for our Web site," Putney said. "Does anyone know any?"

Military jargon flows thick among the group. "Our little cavalry," Putney calls them. "We're trying to show the general his troops are there." Since they can't yet introduce Clark to voters -- he last visited the state in May -- they host "Clark watch" parties to screen videos of his television appearances.

Even without spending much time here, Clark has secured the backing of some prominent New Hampshire Democrats. George Bruno, a former chairman of the state's Democratic Party, compares Clark's situation to that of Bill Clinton, another Arkansas native, who entered the 1992 race late and won the nomination. Other supporters point to 1952, when a "Draft Ike" movement brought Dwight D. Eisenhower a victory in the New Hampshire primary before he had formally entered the presidential race.

But with money to raise and name recognition to build, the volunteers know Clark can't hedge forever. "We don't know if we've got a week, or more, or less. But we should be proud. We've taken this man on TV who mesmerized us and made a national movement," Putney told the nodding supporters. "But remember, as soon as an announcement is made, we are off and running, and the draft ceases to exist."
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