In Democratic Campaigns, Six Degrees of Tom Daschle

By Chris Cillizza And Shailagh Murray
Sunday, February 25, 2007

The easygoing former Senate majority leader never seemed like a party boss. But lo and behold, Daschleites are everywhere. Former Daschle staffers or Daschle-era Senate leadership aides populate all the major Democratic presidential campaigns. A particular beneficiary: Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, who won Daschle's endorsement last week. The South Dakota Democrat, defeated in 2004 by GOP Sen. John Thune, said Obama "personifies the future of Democratic leadership in our country."

Vilsack's Departure Makes Iowa Interesting

Former Iowa governor Tom Vilsack's decision to drop out of the presidential race late last week surprised many observers who expected him to stick it out at least through his home-state caucuses. Vilsack was always seen as a long shot for the Democratic nomination, but his departure still makes an impact on the field he leaves behind.

Here's a look at a few of the biggest winners and losers as a result of Vilsack's departure:


Iowa: With Vilsack out, there's no chance that the caucuses will be a repeat of 1992, when the presence of native son Tom Harkin turned the race into a non-entity. No candidate left in the field can excuse failing to make a splash in the Hawkeye State -- meaning what happens there now really matters.

Bill Richardson: Richardson is the only candidate left on the Democratic side with executive experience. There's a reason no senator has been directly elected to the White House since 1960. In that time, four governors have won the nation's highest office.

Chris Dodd: Dodd needed a break to make a real run at the nomination, and Vilsack's departure might just be it. The Connecticut senator should surprise some people with his cash haul at the end of the first quarter and is slowly but surely positioning himself to take advantage of a stumble by the front-runners.

Process: Vilsack dropped from the race 10 months before a single vote will be cast. His stated reason? Money. The public is largely unaware of the process of raising the cash and building a staff, but fundraising continues to matter more and more in weeding out the field.


Tom Vilsack: Insiders always wondered why Vilsack got into the race at all, and his decision to get out so quickly does little to enhance his chances at being picked for the national ticket. Remember, Vilsack was on the veep shortlist for Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) for 2004. Hard to see how he helped his chances at that slot for 2008.

Nevada: With Vilsack out of the race, second-tier candidates looking to make the big leap will probably devote most of their limited resources to making a move in Iowa. The Nevada caucuses, set for five days later, will be an afterthought.

Policy: Vilsack was a leading voice in the so-called "ideas primary," putting forward a series of detailed issue proposals including an overhaul of energy policy. It didn't save him.

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