Vilsack Faces Hurdles in 2008 Run

By Zachary A. Goldfarb
Friday, November 10, 2006

Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack officially announced his campaign for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination yesterday, becoming the first serious contender to establish a formal campaign committee.

Vilsack is retiring after two terms as governor; he begins his bid as the popular governor of a Midwestern state whose January caucuses play an important role in the nominating process. He is also the chairman of the centrist Democratic Leadership Council and former chairman of the Democratic Governors Association.

Vilsack will face considerable hurdles. Earlier this year, a poll by the Des Moines Register ranked him fourth behind former senator John Edwards (N.C.) and Sens. John F. Kerry (Mass.) and Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) as the preference of likely caucus participants in his home state.

"Americans sent a clear message on Tuesday. They want leaders who will take this country in a new direction," Vilsack, 55, said in a statement. "They want leaders who share their values, understand their needs, and respect their intelligence. That's what I've done as Governor of Iowa, and that's what I intend to do as president."

Vilsack opened an office in Des Moines and will publicly launch his candidacy in Mount Pleasant, Iowa, at the end of the month, followed by announcement stops in New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Nevada and South Carolina.

Vilsack's campaign manager is Craig Varoga, a veteran of the 1996 and 2000 Democratic presidential campaigns and of retired Gen. Wesley Clark's 2004 primary bid.

PACs Get Green Light From FEC

Speaking of the 2008 presidential race, the Federal Election Commission for the first time authorized a political action committee to raise money on behalf of presidential candidates before they have formally decided run. The FEC said that ActBlue, which has raised more than $17 million through blogs and Web sites for Democrats since 2004, could begin to collect money on behalf of possible candidates. If a candidate decides to run, ActBlue will have 10 days to transfer the money to the candidate's campaign committee; if not, the group will send it to the Democratic National Committee.

Money given to ActBlue is figured into the roughly $2,100 an individual is allowed to contribute to a presidential candidate during the primary process.

ActBlue's president, Ben Rahn, said politicians mulling a presidential bid typically depend on wealthy fundraisers to jump-start their candidacies. "We're making it possible for small-dollar donors to come together to encourage a presidential candidate to enter the race," Rahn said. "We are democratizing the earliest stage of the presidential primary."

In the past, the agency allowed PACs to raise money only for declared candidates. FEC Chairman Michael E. Toner said the decision "has the potential to further broaden online fundraising at the presidential level. It's really, I think, geared mostly at donors at the $25, $50, $100 level and provides another opportunity for them to be active at the earliest stage of the presidential campaign."

Slight Increase in Voter Turnout

The midterm elections brought a modest increase in voter turnout, according to a report by American University's Center for the Study of the American Electorate, which said that an estimated 40.4 percent of the eligible electorate voted, compared with 39.7 percent in 2002.

By this estimate, Tuesday's turnout was the highest percentage since 1982, when 42.1 percent of eligible Americans voted.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company