The photo finish came down to only a few hundred votes — Clark received about 1,300 more than Edwards. Both candidates garnered 30 percent of the vote, beating current front-runner Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, who secured 27 percent.
Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., came in a distant fourth with 7 percent, followed by former Gov. Howard Dean with 4 percent. The Oklahoma Election Board warned the results were so close that it would be Feb. 6 before state officials certify Clark as the winner.
Clark campaigned hard in Oklahoma, after placing third in the Jan. 27 New Hampshire primary. A win in Oklahoma was considered crucial to his campaign.
“America wants a higher standard of leadership in Washington,” Clark said after most media outlets projected his victory. He criticized President Bush, saying he was moving the country backward by losing jobs and entering an “unnecessary war” in Iraq.
Clark also called for health care for all Americans and a climate in which questioning leaders would be considered the highest form of patriotism, particularly during times of war. He said that use of force should be a last resort, not a “political tool in an election.”
The retired Army general was banking on the southwestern states in Tuesday’s seven-state contests, also traveling to Arizona and New Mexico, where he placed second behind Kerry.
Clark came in fourth in Missouri and South Carolina and fifth in Delaware.
Earlier in the day, Clark’s son lambasted news coverage of his father’s campaign and said the retired general should drop out of the race if he did not win any of Tuesday’s seven primaries and caucuses.
“I’d like him to win today. If he doesn’t win, I don’t want him to stay out there,” Wesley Clark Jr. said outside his father’s campaign headquarters in Oklahoma City, according to The Washington Post.
“It’s been a really disillusioning experience,” the younger Clark said. “We sacrificed a hell of a lot for this country over 34 years. We lived in a damn trailer when I was a freshman in high school.”
He dismissed news coverage as being focused on “the horse race,” and not on substantive issues.
The Clark campaign was set to travel Tuesday night to Tennessee and Virginia for their primaries on Feb. 10.