If democratic presidential candidate John Kerry chooses Tom Vilsack as a runningate, Vilsack will be thrust into the national spotlight — and behind a microphone. Vilsack often uses his speeches to draw a rhetorical line in the sand.

“Many believe that elections are about winning and indeed that is an important aspect of any election, but more fundamental than winning is the fight — what it is that you fight for, who you fight for and what you stand for,” Vilsack said during a speech in 2002.

Vilsack’s speechmaking skills were honed during his years as a trial lawyer, then reshaped by his experience in local and state politics. When Vilsack talked on the Senate floor, he often flipped through notes he’d written on a pad of yellow notepaper. When he became Governor, Vilsack still wrote the first draft of his major speeches, including his first, formal “Condition of the State” speech which lasted an hour and a half and covered 128 agenda items he wanted lawmakers to consider.

Former Republican House Speaker Ron Corbett of Cedar Rapids watched Vilsack give that speech, but now Corbett is president of the Cedar Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce and he sees Vilsack from a different perspective. “I think he does an outstanding job in front of the general public when he’s speaking both in large and small groups in really framing the issues to support his position,” Corbett said during a Radio Iowa interview.

Senate Deomocrat Leader Mike Gronstal of Council Bluffs agrees. “I don’t know what Kerry’s criteria is, I don’t know what he’s looking for, but Tom Vilsack can deliver a great, compassionate speech and kind of take your heart out of your chest and show your beating heart to you and make you feel that same compassion he has and the same vision for making Iowa a better place,” Gronstal told Radio Iowa.

If Kerry’s looking for a cheerleader, Vilsack can do that, too, as he did during his 2002 re-election campaign when he faced republican challenger Doug Gross. “Governor Gross? Not today, not in November, not ever,” Vilsack said. Vilsack’s accomplishments as governor are the next installment in Radio Iowa’s continuing series examining Tom Vilsack’s career.