Announcing his departure from the presidential race today, Tom Vilsack said the issue was "money and only money," and he put the blame on the early start to the race. The 2008 nomination process, he said, "started earlier than anybody expected, and it's requiring more money than ever before."
He's certainly right about that -- candidates on all sides may well end up regretting that they're out of the gates so early -- but the truth is that Vilsack probably couldn't have kept up even if things had gotten going much later than they did. A Vilsack advisor tells the Washington Post's Dan Balz that the candidate was on track to raise just $1.3 million during the first quarter of 2007. "In contrast," Balz notes, "Obama raised that much at one Hollywood fundraiser on Tuesday night and Clinton similarly can raise that much at a single event."
Of course, there's sometimes an explanation for why candidates don't raise much money: People aren't all that interested in forking over cash to someone who isn't all that likely to win. In a Quinnipiac University poll of Democrats released earlier this week, Vilsack's support was represented by a "dash" -- which is to say, he wasn't feeling the love from even 1 percent of the poll's respondents. What about the voters in Vilsack's home state, Iowa? A Strategic Visions poll of likely Democratic caucusgoers this month put Vilsack fourth behind John Edwards, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.
Those poll numbers may not have been the proximate cause of Vilsack's departure, but they couldn't possibly have been too far removed from it.