Lack of Cash Will Soon Winnow Presidential Field

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If you are following the excessively early maneuvering in presidential politics, it seems as if the field will be packed in both parties.

Don't believe it. It comes down to money–lots of it.

To be sure, outgoing Democratic Gov. Tom Vilsack of Iowa is already in the running. And the longest of long shots, Rep. Duncan Hunter of California, is in the GOP chase.

Several would-be candidates have formed exploratory committees, the first legal step to possible runs. Sen. John McCain of Arizona, outgoing Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani are Republican explorers.

Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana is forming his committee. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and the new darling of the media, Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, are making noises.

Take that deep breath, however, because all this early movement does not mean all the pretenders to the White House will be around when Iowans caucus in January 2008.

In fact, two candidates are already gone. Former Democratic Gov. Mark Warner of Virginia, a man with solid credentials, said he was bowing out. And retiring GOP Sen. Bill Frist, whose candidacy would have been a joke, issued a "no" statement.

Since the nomination in both parties is wide open for the first time for as long as many can recall, other would-be candidates may soon emerge. It seems as if a half-dozen or more senators yearn to hear the words "Mr. President" (or "Madame President," in Senator Clinton's case).

Remember that candidates are going to have to raise $35 million to $40 million in the next 10 months or so to be viable players. Long shots and dark horses, like Vilsack and Hunter, need every day of that time span. And they may still not make the cut.

So when you read about all these candidates gearing up to run or thinking about it, keep in mind that many of them are only dreaming.

The inability to raise big money when the well-known players, like McCain and Clinton, have star power, will surely shrink the starting lineups by this time next year.