Governor Tom Vilsack earned cheers and brought some in the crowd to tears last (Wednesday) night at a banquet in New Hampshire, but a few folks are openly critical of Iowa’s governor for failing to fully back New Hampshire’s First-in-the-Nation primary. Vilsack was the closer at a Flag Day event in Manchester, New Hampshire that attracted about 250 Democratic party regulars. He delivered a speech that called Democrats to action and railed against the Bush presidency.
“As Christie and I travel across this country and across the world in far away places, I grow deeply concerned about the fact that our country today is no longer the country that inspires, but is a country that many fear and George Bush is responsible for that,” Vilsack said. Vilsack closed by talking about his conversation with an Iowa woman whose husband, a soldier, was killed in Iraq and the crowd sat in hushed silence. He ended with a call to service in the party, as well as a call for change.
“I’ve listened to all of you the past couple of days and I leave this stage tonight inspired and extraordinarily proud to say ‘I’m Tom Vilsack. I’m from Iowa and I’m a Democrat,” Vilsack said in closing. Long-time New Hampshire Democrat Ray Buckley, the event’s emcee, cried during Vilsack’s speech. “I do not recall in my years ever starting to cry in the middle of a speech of a candidate running for president,” Buckley said.
“The last time I cried was when Al Gore decided to let George Bush become president and I at that time said that was the last time I was ever going to cry, but I was sitting over there with tears in my eyes because (Vilsack) has that ability to really resonate and that’s something that is very important for anyone who wants to consider running for president.”
Earlier in the speech, Vilsack drew the crowd to its feet with this declaration about the timing of New Hampshire’s Primary. “I want to tell you how impressed I am with the energy and the concern that you all have about this nation and the role that you play and I want to assure you that you do have a partner with the state of Iowa,” Vilsack said. “We’re going to keep New Hampshire and Iowa first in the nation.”
But Vilsack’s statements to reporters indicate he is not against having the national party place another state’s caucuses immediately after Iowa’s and before New Hampshire’s primary. That irks George Bruno of Manchester, New Hampshire, who believes Iowa abandoned New Hampshire when national party leaders last met to discuss the positioning of the events in the next presidential campaign.
“I would hope that the traditional alliance and cooperation that has existed between our two states would be once again restored,” Bruno says. Bruno was a member of the Democratic National Committee for 12 years. Emcee Ray Buckley, a key Democratic leader in New Hampshire politics, puts it more diplomatically, saying he hopes Vilsack “grows” into a greater appreciation of the New Hampshire primary.
“We would very much appreciate and we think that America would appreciate his joining with us in making sure that the historic relationship between the two states remains strong,” Buckley says.
Fifty-nine-year-old Bill Keough was standing outside the event hall, criticizing Vilsack for failing to clearly back New Hampshire’s first primary. “Obviously, it sends up a red flag,” Keough says. “You question what they’re going to say when they get a thousand miles away from us.”
Vilsack is only about 45 miles from Manchester, New Hampshire this (Thursday) morning and he plans to meet with some of the Democrats who he addressed by telephone last Labor Day when he canceled a trip to New Hampshire’s Sea Coast to stay in Iowa to prepare for hurricane evacuees.