Former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack withdrew from the crowded field of Democratic presidential hopefuls Friday, leading some to believe he could be more influential from outside the race than he was in it. Vilsack, who had been polling fourth in Iowa, behind Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards, had managed to raise $1.1 million for his campaign war chest. This is the far cry from other candidates, who expect to raise a minimum of $1 million at single fundraisers. Vilsack had only $396,000 on hand to run his campaign. He had been on the campaign trail a total of 86 days.
Still, Vilsack’s departure from the race leaves his campaign infrastructure, along with thousands of volunteers, to fill the gap for one of the other frontrunners. Vilsack has said he has no plans to immediately endorse another candidate, although Des Moines lawyer Jerry Crawford, a Vilsack supporter, says he has received several phone calls from other Democrats, seeking his endorsement.
“The irony is that Tom Vilsack had lapped the field in terms of organization in the state,” he said. “He was way, way ahead of people in that regard, but because of money, he couldn’t stay in the race.” Vilsack agreed.
“We have to have a real debate about public financing and the ability to enable the primary and caucus process to be about ideas … not just simply about a money primary,” Vilsack said at a news conference in Des Moines. “That’s the game that’s being played today, and it’s a game that obviously I was not able to play as successfully as I wanted to.” He added, “We have everything to win the nomination and general election. Everything except money.”
Governor Vilsack’s departure could mean good fortune for Illinois Senator Barack Obama. Obama, like Vilsack, had made his opposition to the war in Iraq a cornerstone of his campaign. Vilsack, from Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, had polled most strongly in eastern Iowa, the same area where Obama, from across the river in Illinois, hopes to make his presence felt. “It opens some doors that weren’t open before,” one of Obama’s campaign operatives said.
Vilsack was elected governor of Iowa in 1988, the first Democrat elected to that position in 32 years. In 2004, he was one of three finalists considered by John Kerry as a possible running mate, a position that eventually landed with John Edwards.
In quitting this early in the race, and without having gotten into any major spats with other candidates, Vilsack remains a viable running made for whoever eventually lands the Democratic nominee.