The former Iowa governor says money is his chief reason for exiting the race.
Vilsack was the first major candidate to enter a White House bid, and entered the race just a day after the midterm elections. In Hollywood, he did initially attract a healthy list of donors, but that base got sucked up as other star candidates entered the field.
Just last week, we caught up with him the day after what was a successful appearance on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.” He talked extensively about his energy security proposal and his call to withdraw troops from Iraq immediately, but in what is amounting to a money primary, he’s had trouble gaining traction.
“Donors generally are more informed, more engaged, more interested in the mechanics and the process,” he said. “Not only what your position on a current issue is but, how do you win? How do you get attention? How do you go up in the polls? What is the situation in Iowa and New Hampshire? They are very well versed in all the latest political news.
“Average ordinary people are not as focused. They are just trying to make a living. Trying to get the kids to school and that type of thing. For most people, the election is so far away.
Then, he quipped, in his dry wit, “They are having a had time trying to keep up with who is the father of Anna Nicole Smith’s baby.”
Vilsack did have an interesting proposal for debates: Pair two candidates up, rather than the current process of political forums where a dozen candidates can square off against each other. No one person is able to say much of anything, other than sound bytes. For him, making some kind of lasting impression at the debates, or some kind of surprise showing in Iowa, became of utmost importance to show donors he has viability. The trouble is he still has to have the resources to last throughout the year.
His decision to drop out — so early in the race — will surely create some consternation about how the presidential race is shaking out overall and whether it truly is becoming all about the money.
Norman Lear, who contributed to Vilsack’s campaign, said Thursday that he’d have a hard time getting his message through in the current environment.
“I like him a great deal,” Lear said, adding, “He can’t get through so long as the mainstream press is more interested in Britney Spears and Anna Nicole Smith and what David Geffen is saying about Mr.s Clinton. This is all the nonsense of our time.”