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In N.M., Clark says he's the 'hombre' to beat Bush

ALBUQUERQUE -- Declaring himself "one tough hombre," retired General Wesley K. Clark swung through Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Arizona yesterday, targeting those states in his bid to win Democratic delegates in voting today as a Washington outsider.

 

Clark addressed an animated crowd of about 100 in the courtyard of a Hispanic cultural center here in New Mexico's largest city, peppering his standard stump recitation of his life story and values with Spanish phrases spoken with an Arkansas accent.

At an event later in the day in Tucson, he was greeted by a couple of hundred supporters outside the Old County Courthouse.

"If you like what's going on in Washington today, if you are comfortable with that, tell your friends and neighbors to go vote for a Washington politician," Clark told supporters in Albuquerque. "I'm not part of the Washington problem. I'm the solution to the Washington problem."

The event was the second in a day of hopscotching across the three Western states, which his campaign has targeted as most likely to produce a Clark victory of the seven states that vote today. Regardless, his campaign operatives have vowed to compete at least through contests in Virginia, Wisconsin, and Tennessee in the next two weeks.

The campaign has been running television ads in six states with caucuses or primaries today, and Clark spent parts of two days last week in South Carolina. But he has focused on New Mexico, Arizona, and Oklahoma since North Carolina Senator John Edwards, who was born in South Carolina, finished second in the Iowa caucuses on Jan. 19, said Chris Lehane, a Clark campaign adviser.

He said that campaign strategists viewed Edwards's strength in the Palmetto State as similar to Senator John F. Kerry's in New Hampshire: Once each candidate demonstrated that they were a legitimate candidate, state voters tended to view them as favored sons.

Speaking in Albuquerque, Clark predicted Republicans would make personal attacks during the fall campaign and said only a "tough hombre" could stand up to them.

"I am one tough hombre," he said.

Robert Schlesinger can be reached at schlesinger@globe.com.

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