The four-day-long National Governors Association meeting wrapped up Monday afternoon in Des Moines and host Governor Tom Vilsack says there were a few reason why attendance was higher than normal. No sitting governor in the country is running for re-election this year, “so there’s more lattitude with time” according to Vilsack. Others with White House aspirations came to quietly network with Iowans who might prove crucial backers in the 2008 Iowa Caucuses, the kick-off event of the next presidential campaign. Vilsack, himself a potential presidential candidate, relished the role of host. “I personally called governors, extending invitations to them…making sure that their families were well-cared for I think made a difference,” he says. “This is an extraordinarily friendly place. I think many are surprised by the multitude of experiences that they could have in the state,” Vilsack says. “I think the children had a great time here.” Some of the visiting governors’ kids stood in line late Friday night to buy the Harry Potter book at a suburban Des Moines bookstore and some of the kids even got to try their hands at their favorite sports — tutored by pros. Vilsack says hundreds of Iowans “rolled out the red carpet” for the visitors. “I’m really, really proud of the effort that Iowans put forward and I think our state did well,” Vilsack told reporters at the conclusion of the event. Virginia Governor Mark Warner says everything ran smoothly. “Well, the bar’s been raised pretty high,” Warner told the governors. “And I don’t want anybody to complain about well, gosh, going to Mississippi in July is going to be hot.” Biloxi, Mississippi, will host next year’s meeting, and Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour assured the governors there would be cool breezes and cool beverages. “I thought it was interesting that you would choose to say ‘The bar has been raised high,'” Barbour said to Warner. “Bar is a term with which I am familiar,” Barbour, the former chairman of the Republican National Committee, joked. No word, though, as to whether the “martini luges” brought in by vodka-maker Ketel One as part of the company’s $50,000 donation to put on this year’s event was make an appearance in Mississippi. Such corporate donors provided all but $100,000 of the event’s more than $1 million price-tag. That $100,000 came from Iowa taxpayers to foot the bill for some of the security provided to the visiting governors.
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