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Clark under pressure to attend next week's Democratic debate

From John Mercurio and Candy Crowley
CNN Washington Bureau

Retired Army Gen. Wesley Clark
Retired Army Gen. Wesley Clark

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LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- Just a day after he formally announced he was running for president, Wesley Clark's honeymoon is over.

After a wave of largely positive coverage, Clark, a retired four-star general and the 10th candidate in the Democratic field, has come under pressure from rivals to show up at next week's MSNBC-Wall Street Journal debate, which is expected to focus on economic policy.

Clark has a previously scheduled paid speaking engagement the same day and has not decided which event to attend, according to his campaign.

Calling the economy arguably the "single most important issue" of the 2000 campaign, a spokesman for Sen. Joe Lieberman said Clark should attend the September 25 debate to tell the American people how he intends to deal with the economy.

Clark, whose military credentials are unparalleled in the race, is largely an unknown quantity on domestic issues.

But a Clark campaign spokeswoman Maya Israel said the criticism was premature, given that the retired general has not decided to skip the debate.

"It hasn't been confirmed that he's not going, so to take a swipe at him is entirely premature," she said. "But clearly there is nothing else for them to criticize him for. If that's the only fodder they have, then that's a good sign for us."


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