Wesley Clark's credentials for running against President George Bush rested squarely on his military reputation.
How Wesley Clark might like Americans to see him
But he has decided that these credentials are not enough, dropping out of the race after coming in third in primaries in Virginia and Tennessee.
Mr Clark knew it would be an uphill battle when he entered the race.
He had no political experience, and would have been, if elected, only the second former general in the White House in recent decades.
Top of the class
Wesley Clark grew up in Little Rock, Arkansas and went on to become a Rhodes scholar at Oxford University, where he took a Master's Degree in philosophy, politics and economics.
But he had already set his heart on a military career. He graduated top of his class at the West Point military academy, and won a Purple Heart in Vietnam after his infantry unit came under fire.
After working in US military planning in the mid-1990s, he won his first major command - the US Southern Command, based in Panama.
Clark was honoured by the UK, despite a major spat
From there he went on, in 1997, to the European posting which thrust him into the public eye: Nato Supreme Allied Commander and Commander in Chief of the US forces in Europe.
At the time, Western nations were confronting Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic over the Serbian-run, but ethnic Albanian province of Kosovo.
After the diplomacy failed, General Clark led Nato's first major combat action, pushing Serbian forces out of Kosovo and paving the way for the international administration that still runs it.
He had gained an insight into Yugoslav issues earlier, having handled the military side of the Dayton negotiations that ended the three-year war in Bosnia in 1995.
His words at the beginning of Nato's bombing campaign in 1998 set the tone for the alliance's tough line with the then President Milosevic.
"We're going to systematically and progressively attack, disrupt, degrade, devastate and ultimately, unless President Milosevic complies with the demands of the international community, we're going to destroy his forces and their facilities and support," he said.
Disputes with allies
But the campaign was not as swift and decisive as Nato had hoped and there were a series of mistakes, including the bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade.
There were other difficulties - General Clark's plea for Apache helicopters to be deployed was a source of friction with the Pentagon and there was a celebrated dispute with the British commander General Sir Mike Jackson.
"I'm not going to start the Third World War for you," the British commander reportedly told General Clark as he refused to send troops to stop Russian forces taking control of Pristina airport.
Nonetheless, he was in March 2000 given an honorary knighthood by the UK in recognition of his "boundless energy" during the bombing of Yugoslavia.
He was awarded France's highest award, the Legion d'Honneur and in August 2000, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honour in the US.
Nato bosses denied General Clark had been asked to leave his post early because of his handling of the Kosovo conflict. But reports that the rift over the Apache helicopter issue had cost him his job never went away.
Since leaving the military in May 2000, Wesley Clark has set up a strategy consultancy and joined an investment bank based in his home town.
He and his wife Gert still live in the town. They have one son, also called Wesley.
But he has not left military thinking behind, publishing in 2001 Waging Modern War: Bosnia, Kosovo, and the Future of Combat.