From NBC's Mark Murray and Elizabeth Wilner
NBC News has learned that former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack (D) is dropping out of the presidential race. This announcement, which Vilsack will make outside his campaign headquarters at noon ET, comes as quite a surprise given that he was heading to campaign in New Hampshire on Monday and Tuesday
Vilsack, the first major Democrat to announce that he was running for president in 2008, made his decision after realizing he wouldn't have the money to compete against the likes of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. "This comes down to money," says a Democratic source close the campaign, noting that Vilsack had -- by far -- the strongest organization in Iowa, the site of the first Democratic nominating contest.
Vilsack, of course, isn't the first high-profile Democrat to announce he's not running. Former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner and Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh also decided -- to the surprise of many -- that they would not run. Interestingly, all three of these Democrats are similar: They are considered centrists who hail from red states.
Vilsack's decision also removes from the field someone who had been tacking to the left on the Iraq war. He opposed Bush's troop increase and wanted Congress to block funding for it. He also encouraged state legislatures to denounce Bush's plan, as he did during his farewell speech as governor. "I want to challenge every single one of you and ask a simple question," Vilsack said at this week's Democratic forum in Nevada. "What have you done today to end this war in Iraq? It needs to be ended now; not six days from now, not six months from now, not six years from now, it needs to be ended now and it's up to you."
It's worth noting that the other high-profile Democrats still in the field -- Clinton, Obama, Joe Biden, Chris Dodd, and even Bill Richardson -- all hail from Washington, or at least have strong ties to it. And these people all seem to have better platforms to air their positions on the war, given more opportunities to appear on the Sunday morning shows or to speak from the Senate floor.