For a while, it looked like Tom Vilsack was going to be the only governor or ex-governor in the Democratic presidential sweepstakes, so those of us at Governing had a little bit of a soft spot for him. But none of us expected to win.

His withdrawal from the race shows a couple of things. One is that the presidential race is now running fully a year ahead of schedule, with big crowds in Iowa and New Hampshire listening to the wannabes and also-rans like Vilsack dropping out well ahead of the straw polls, led alone the primaries.

The other is the familiar old fact that you've got to give people a reason to vote for you. Vilsack wasn't well known and came from a small state. Even though that state was Iowa, that wasn't much of a boost (especially since Vilsack was polling well behind even in his own state).

Vilsack did some interesting things as governor, particularly in areas such as the budget, state management and priorities, and relations with local governments. Which of those topics do you think would have fit best on a presidential campaign bumper sticker?

Right, none. And they were in keeping with Vilsack's persona, which, to be frank, is a bit on the dull side.

Vilsack spoke at a Governing conference last year. I can remember it sounding like a stump speech in the making. I can also remember a moving story he told about a phone call he had placed to the widow of an Iowan who had died in Iraq. But I can't remember a single thing he said about policy.