February 23, 2007

Vilsack drops out of presidential race

Citing the inability to raise sufficient campaign cash and less than expected support in the state he once governed, Tom Vilsack today dropped the bombshell that he is dropping out of his bid for the Democratic Presidential nomination. Vilsack broke the new only hours ago with the announcement in DesMoines.

The official press release quotes Vilsack:
"I am a very luck guy, blessed in love, family, friends, job, and by this campaign.

"I have the boldest plan to get us out of Iraq and a long-term policy for energy security to keep us out of future oil wars. Our campaign has built the strongest organization here in Iowa, with almost 3,000 supporters among Democratic caucus goers. We are organizationally positioned to win the caucuses in January 2008. We have everything to win the nomination and general election.

"Everything except money."

Media-expensive states that have moved, or are considering moving their primaries or caucuses to early February 2008 include: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, New Mexico, New Jersey, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma and Utah.

"Retail political events in coffee shops, living rooms and small towns are sometimes dismissed by insiders as relics of the past, but they are wrong. It's critically important to our party and our country that our candidates spend the time and energy visiting the small towns and communities that make America great. And let us focus on the dreams that unite us rather than be distracted by the differences of opinion that sometimes separate us."

From the Washington Post:
Confirming an earlier Fix report, former Gov. Tom Vilsack has formally withdrawn from the presidential race -- citing an inability to stay financially competitive as the sole reason for his decision.

"We have everything to win the nomination and the general election," said Vilsack in a statement released by his campaign. "Everything except money."

Vilsack added that the frontloading of the primary process -- with states like California and Florida planning move their primary dates up to early February -- put even more emphasis on the need for campaign cash.

Vilsack was the first candidate to officially declare his presidential candidacy, an announcement that came directly on the heels of the November midterm elections. His stated reason for getting in so early was the need to immediately put in place an infrastructure to show he could raise the money to be competitive with the frontrunners for the nomination. By the end of 2006, Vilsack had raised $1.2 million for his presidential campaign but had just $396,000 in the bank. In a race where the leading candidates are expected to raise more than $50 million this year alone, it was apparent that Vilsack would struggle to compete. Rumors were flying hot and heavy in the days leading up to Vilsack's announcement that he was having trouble meeting payroll for his expanding campaign staff.

Vilsack is not expected to endorse any of the remaining candidates in the near future. Obviously an endorsement from a two-term governor of the state that holds the first-in-the-nation caucuses will be coveted by all of the major candidates.

In that vein, the first press release we received on Vilsack came from Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's (N.Y.) campaign. Clinton said she had been "proud to work with Tom Vilsack for years on the challenges facing our country" and added that she had "deep admiration" for Vilsack and his wife Christie.

In a conference calls with reporters Friday afternoon, VIlsack said endorsements were far from his mind. "We are going to take some time and reflect but today is not the day to talk about that," he said.

The account in the NY Times cites trouble getting traction in Iowa as a factor as well:
Former Gov. Tom Vilsack of Iowa withdrew from the Democratic presidential race today, saying the crowded field had made it impossible for him to raise enough money to wage a competitive national campaign.

“I came up against something for the first time in my life that hard work and effort couldn’t overcome,” Mr. Vilsack said, speaking at a news conference in Des Moines. “I just couldn’t work harder, couldn’t give it enough.”
But Mr. Vilsack, 56, conceded he was unable to compete in a contest where the ability to raise money trumps all. In recent weeks, officials said, his campaign has been unable to meet payroll, with some aides taking pay cuts and others being turned away for jobs.

“The reality is that this process has become to a great extent about money — a lot of money,” Mr. Vilsack said, lamenting the fact that today’s presidential campaigns are “simply about a money primary.”

Yet Mr. Vilsack also faced another burden: persuading voters in his own state to take his candidacy seriously. Voters in Iowa are scheduled to kick off the presidential nominating season next January, and the steady parade of rivals in his own backyard complicated his efforts.

When asked whether he intended to endorse one of his rivals, he said: “Today is not a day to think of endorsements or other candidates.”

While Mr. Vilsack reported raising $1.1 million from Nov. 9 to Jan. 31, according to campaign finance reports, he had spent all but $396,000. After Senator Barack Obama of Illinois and Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York entered the race in late January, his advisers said, he struggled to persuade contributors to help finance his campaign.

Still, Mr. Vilsack’s decision to drop out startled many of his Iowa admirers. Only two days ago, he appeared with other Democratic candidates at a forum in Nevada, and he was scheduled to attend a campaign rally tonight in Iowa.

Early today, he made a series of calls to party officials and supporters, saying his campaign was spending more money than it was taking in. In the news conference today in Des Moines, he criticized the intense focus that is placed upon raising money, saying that ideas and innovations get overshadowed.

“It is money and only money that is the reason we are leaving today,” said Mr. Vilsack.


At 2/23/2007 3:29 PM, Blogger Benton Harbor said...

While the election is a long way off and I'm obviously not sure whom I'd support yet, Vilsack was a breath of fresh air. Yet understandably, way underfunded with no way to get LOTS more with all the heavy hitters jumping on the early bandwagon. Too bad. He might have been an excellent choice.

At 2/23/2007 3:32 PM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

Benton, I'm glad you touched on the sadness of this. Beyond losing a voice in the deabte, which is regretable, and beyond Vilsack as a candidate, it's sad that money has become such a be all and end all in our political system.

It is sad when any otherwise viable candidate has to drop out, or not run at all, simply because they can't raise obscene amounts of money simply to even participate in the system.

At 2/23/2007 6:43 PM, Blogger Benton Harbor said...

Dope, your use of the word obscene is indeed correct. The amount of money it takes and that is raised has become indeed obscene.

From local, to state, to national, the amount of money that is raised or kicked in is just unfathomable. I'm wondering if it isn't about time for campaign spending limits. Or some sort of national funding that gives each candidate only so much for the primary, then for the main campaign. It might also limit PAC and lobbyist money as well.

Vilsack's (and maybe some others) would certainly have benefitted from something like this. Heck, even Obama might be in some trouble compared to Hillary.

By the way, would you know if she can use some of the money she raised for her Senate race for her presidential aspirations? I wouldn't think so, and it wouldn't be right, but the way Congress "aides" itself first, I wouldn't doubt that she couldn't.


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