Friday, November 10, 2006

Iowa Gov. Vilsack Running for President....Who?

By MIKE GLOVER, Associated Press Writer
10/10/2006 1 hour, 23 minutes ago
DES MOINES, Iowa - Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, a centrist Democrat seeking an early edge in an all-but-certain crowded presidential field, launched a long-shot bid for the White House Thursday.

Fifteen months before his own state holds caucuses — the first step in the nominating process — Vilsack announced his candidacy, filed documents with the Federal Election Commission and heralded a multistate tour beginning Nov. 30.

The governor is the first Democrat to file for the presidency although a number of better known candidates are presumed to be running.

"Americans sent a clear message on Tuesday. They want leaders who will take this country in a new direction," he 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."

Overshadowing the announcement is the upheaval in Washington as Democrats captured control of the House and Senate in Tuesday's elections. But Vilsack, a little-known Midwest governor, needs all the attention he can get — and the first infusion of campaign cash.
Vilsack said he plans a "Gala Celebration of American Community" on Dec. 2 in Des Moines as his initial fundraising event.

In polls, Vilsack has trailed the other potential candidates, among them front-runner New York Sen. Hillary Rodham and 2004 vice presidential nominee John Edwards.

Earlier this year, the governor even was behind in a survey of Iowans.

"He's the least known of the prospective presidential candidates and he comes from the smallest state, where he will have to do very well," said former aide Ron Parker.

In an Associated Press-AOL News poll conducted in late October, Vilsack didn't receive any mentions when respondents were asked who they would most like to see elected president in 2008.

Vilsack will begin his tour in his hometown of Mount Pleasant, Iowa, and will make stops in New Hampshire, Nevada, Pennsylvania and South Carolina.

Vilsack was born in Pittsburgh, and the other states hold key early tests in the nomination process.

He said he will also announce his candidacy in New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Nevada and South Carolina.

Vilsack is chairman of the centrist-leaning Democratic Leadership Council and a former chairman of the Democratic Governors Association.

This year, he had made campaign trips to South Carolina and New Hampshire, but also spent the closing weeks of the campaign in his home state helping Democrat Chet Culver win the governorship.

Vilsack, Iowa's first Democratic governor in 30 years, had promised to serve just two terms.

He hasn't been the only Democrat campaigning in Iowa. Several potential, more familiar candidates have traveled to the state, including Edwards and Illinois Sen. Barack Obama. A long string of candidates in both parties have already begun building campaign organizations.

"Caucus-goers in Iowa tend to be pretty independent-minded people," said Steve Hildebrand, who has advised Obama. "They want to audition the full list. They don't automatically go with the hometown guy."

When Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin sought the Democratic nomination in 1992, rivals decided to cede the state to him, but Vilsack is unlikely to get such a break, strategists say.

During his eight years as governor, Vilsack has sought to chart a moderate course. He balanced the state's budget during the recession of 2001 and 2002 by making deep cuts in spending, including furloughing 10 percent of the state's workforce. He resisted pressure to push for tax increases, and signed into law a measure phasing out the sales tax on utility bills.

In addition to creating a presidential campaign committee, his campaign started operating, with an office in Des Moines and letterhead printed. His campaign Web site — — was online by early Thursday.

On the Republican side, Rep. Duncan Hunter (news, bio, voting record) of California has announced the formation of an exploratory committee.
About a dozen other candidates, including Republican Sen. John McCain (news, bio, voting record) of Arizona and Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, are weighing bids.

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