Tom Vilsack (D - Iowa) has officially declared himself a candidate for President of the United States.
Vilsack was introduced first by Ruth Harkin, wife of Senator Tom Harkin (D - Iowa). Mrs. Harkin emphasized Vilsack's record on education and renewable fuels (ethanol is based on the corn that is a bulwark of Iowa's economy), and his success in coming from behind in 1998 to defeat a well-known competitor.
Next up was Vilsack's Lieutenant Governor (and recent Iowa Democratic Party Chair) Sally Pederson, whom Mrs. Harkin credited with the election of Democratic officials to Congress and Constitutional Offices, amongst others. Calling her work beside Vilsack an honor and priviledge, Pederson said that Vilsack brought bold change in Iowa, expanding industry and employment in renewable fuels, expanding health care coverage, and improving test scores in the schools.
Then, rather oddly, the stage was cleared while the Mt. Pleasant, Iowa High School band played a respectable version - if that can be said of any rendition of this tune - of "Louie, Louie" (was U.S. Senator Blutarski from Iowa?), and some other tunes. Finally, an off-stage emceee announced Vilsack and his wife and two sons. Christie Vilsack went to the podium and provided the personal backstory before Gov. Vilsack stepped to the podium himself.
Saying that the electoral victory earlier in the month is just the beginning, Vilsack said he is running to challenge us all to bring innovation and bold change to the country. But first, he said, we must face reality. Citing terror, crime, and a national security policy that has weakened the country, Vilsack said the country is less safe than we were six years ago.
He emphasized the transition from agriculture to energy production that Iowa undertook, and credited the air quality in Iowa with it. He talked about the steps taken to improve education performance in the state. And he highlighted the state's success in reducing the ranks of those lacking health insurance.
Vilsack's pitch sounded notes that were reminiscent of Clinton and Kennedy, and called for a substantive debate about the problems the country faces especially the kinds of change that build a competitive national economy for the twenty-first century (emphasizing again and again the need to move away from our dependence on foreign oil).
On Iraq, he said "We must act and act now. We must take our troops out of harms way" and turn the responsibility over to the Iraqis.
Standard fare. He won't be the darling of the left. First to announce, Vilsack enjoys an obvious advantage in the first in the nation Iowa caucuses, which should result in a diminution of the significance of winning the caucuses, unless Vilsack somehow manages to lose (he won't). Iowa will now be about who comes in second, and combined with the reshuffle in the Primary schedule, look for more resources going elsewhere earlier.