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Inside Politics

Aide: Clark to end presidential run

'The mountain got too steep to climb'

With Tuesday's results clear, Clark thanks supporters in Memphis, Tennessee.
With Tuesday's results clear, Clark thanks supporters in Memphis, Tennessee.

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CNN's Judy Woodruff on Sen. John Kerry's wins in Tennessee and Virginia.
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CNN's Dan Lothian on retired Gen. Wesley Clark's decision to leave the race.
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(CNN) -- Retired Army Gen. Wesley Clark will end his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, aides said late Tuesday.

The former NATO supreme commander will make his formal announcement at 2 p.m. (3 p.m. ET) Wednesday in his hometown of Little Rock, Arkansas, his aides said.

Clark, 59, had been hoping for second-place finishes in the primaries in Virginia and Tennessee on Tuesday to position himself as the most viable alternative to the Democratic front-runner, Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts. But he came in third in both states, behind Kerry and Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina.

"General Clark has decided to leave the race," spokesman Matt Bennett told reporters in Memphis, Tennessee, on Tuesday night. "I think probably the biggest reason is the tremendous momentum that Senator Kerry built coming out of the Iowa and New Hampshire races.

"The mountain got too steep to climb."

Clark was with his family and staff when he made his decision, Bennett said.

A Clark fund-raiser scheduled for Wednesday night in Houston, Texas, was canceled after a week in which campaign staffers gave up their paychecks to free up money for TV ads in Tennessee.

During his speech to supporters after the polls closed Tuesday, Clark repeated the need for better leadership in the White House but never mentioned himself by name and didn't mention Nevada or Wisconsin, which hold the next two primaries.

"We may have lost this battle today, but we are not going to lose the battle for America's future," Clark said to cheers.

He told supporters that he had called Kerry and Edwards to congratulate them. He called them both "good men" and "good patriots."

Clark has been criticized for coming to the Democratic Party only recently. He has acknowledged voting for Republicans Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan for president, but said he voted for Bill Clinton and Al Gore.

On Tuesday, he presented himself as a proud Democrat.

"Our goal remains the same, to change the direction of our country and bring a higher standard of leadership to the White House," Clark said. "And there is no party more committed to that effort and there is no party more committed to the people than this party, my party, the Democratic Party."

Before entering the race, Clark once praised President Bush and his administration. There were no hints of such feelings Tuesday.

"George W. Bush and the Republicans have had three long years to get our country moving in the right direction," he said. "Instead he set us back."

Clark is a newcomer to politics. He claimed his first election victory of any sort in Oklahoma's primary February 3. He had never run in an election until New Hampshire's primary January 27.

Clark finished third in that race.

Clark, a Rhodes scholar and West Point graduate, works as an investment banker in Little Rock.

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