February 24, 2007

At Least He Gave It His All

If anyone doubts the ridiculous nature of the 2008 Presidential election cycle, the capitulation of Tom Vilsack eleven months before the first caucus gathers should confirm it. In a race where everyone expected Hillary Clinton and John Edwards to have high-profile campaigns, Vilsack withdrew because he hadn't raised enough money ... by February 2007:

Former Gov. Tom Vilsack of Iowa ended his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination on Friday, saying the crowded field had made it impossible for him to raise enough money to remain competitive in an accelerated coast-to-coast campaign.

After making his announcement, Mr. Vilsack spent the afternoon taking calls from former rivals. They sent their best wishes, even as they began seeking his endorsement in Iowa, where the caucus early next year will kick off the process of selecting a nominee.

“I’m not thinking about that today,” Mr. Vilsack said in a telephone interview, pausing for a moment after juggling a string of calls from a variety of suitors, including Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama.

Candidates also issued statements praising his candidacy.

For some reason, people had talked up Governor Vilsack ever since 2004, when John Kerry had apparently considered him as a VP candidate. This attention owes more to Vilsack's status as the Governor of the first state to hold its caucuses rather than any innate political qualities in Vilsack. He proved yesterday that the press overestimated the power of his candidacy, overestimating his impact and his staying power.

And while many of us continue to point out how ridiculous these early declarations and campaign starts have become, it's much more ridiculous to have capitulations a year before the primaries begin in earnest. So much for campaign finance reform; now candidates have to line up the checkbooks a full year before primary and almost two years before the election. Only James Carville and a raft of political consultants could take pleasure in this development; Carville was the architect of the perpetual campaign, and 2007 is his vision writ large.

The scene captured by the New York Times photographers almost reaches the level of satire. Vilsack stood at a podium, surrounded by his family and supporters while the cameras clicked away, as if this was a concession speech on Election Night. Memo to candidates: if you can't stick it out until the first election, go away quietly. This season of silliness is bad enough without the lip-biting finales being conducted before the race even starts.


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