|WASHINGTON, July 9 -- He has his own political dialogue Web site. He makes frequent appearances on television talk shows. He travels the country, criticizing President Bush.
For months now, Wesley K. Clark, 58, the retired four-star general and Supreme Allied Commander of NATO and CNN military analyst, has acted a lot like the nine Democratic candidates currently running for president, and he admits to thinking about joining them.
But there is one major difference: General Clark, who is chairman of a strategic consulting company in his hometown, Little Rock, Ark., has provided scant evidence that he intends to join the race when he announces his decision this summer.
Unlike the candidates who have spent considerable time and money in Iowa and New Hampshire, where the first measures of the field will be taken next winter, General Clark has neither raised money for the effort nor built a campaign staff. Senior party officials say privately they do not expect him to run, and state leaders say it on the record.
"I'd be more surprised if he ran than if he didn't," Kathy Sullivan, chairman of the New Hampshire Democratic Party, said today. "Sure, he's welcome to run, but I just don't see it. If you're serious, you'd better get up here. You can't not show up here now and make up for it with TV in September."
Gordon Fischer, the Iowa Democratic Party chairman, said he was unaware of any effort by the general to campaign in the state. "He has no organization here that we know of," Mr. Fischer said.
In an interview today, the general said he had been flattered and surprised by the interest in him as a presidential candidate, much of it fueled by Internet Web sites started by people who want him to run.
He said he had "done nothing to encourage or discourage them." But he revealed nothing that suggested how he was leaning, saying he would consider family and business interests after 34 years in the military and his deeply held belief that President Bush is leading the country in the wrong direction with a go-it-alone approach to foreign policy.
"I'll continue to speak out," he said. "But this is a very personal thing that I have not shared with anyone. I know I have to reach some conclusion in the next month or month and a half."
Terry McAuliffe, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, said he has talked with General Clark about running as a Democrat and declared the possibility "great for the party," adding, "He's clearly interested, and it would be great to have a four-star general talking about why he's a Democrat, running for president."
Mr. McAuliffe said he had no idea how the general might decide but warned, "The later he gets in, the harder it is."
General Clark has made only a few trips to New Hampshire in the last six months, Ms. Sullivan said. So little exposure, she said, is perilous for any serious presidential effort, even with the primary more than six months away.
"He could still run, sure," she said. "But it's getting to be too late for picking up supporters and people who can tell you where to go and who to talk to. They get all taken up."
The push for a Clark candidacy resides with Web site organizers and a growing number of people drawn to him for his willingness to take on Mr. Bush's foreign policy strategies and to promote a domestic agenda that appeals to both Democrats and moderate Republicans.
General Clark said he had had no contact with the Web site organizers. One site, DraftClark2004.com, has formed a political action committee to raise money for him and opened an office last week in Dover, N.H.
"Our first goal is to convince Clark that there is sufficient support at the grass roots level for him to run and that the money is there," said Brent Blackaby, a management consultant in San Francisco who helped organize the Web site in April. "We want him to know that if he decides to run, there are people out there willing to work for him."
John Hlinko, a Democratic political consultant who helped found the Web site DraftWesleyClark.com, said: "People look at this guy and see the president we were promised as a kid. He's larger than life on so many levels. He hits home runs across the board. He's smart. He's the president we were meant to have."