Governor Tom Vilsack delivered his first presidential-campaign-style speech this (Wednesday) morning in New Hampshire. Vilsack was the featured speaker at an event called “politics and eggs” which drew about 150 people from the region.
Michael Chaney, president of the New Hampshire Political Library, the co-sponsor of the series, says one of the goals is to give audience members a keep-sake that might become valuable. Vilsack, like those who’ve gone before him at these “politics and eggs” event, used a marker to sign his name on a wooden egg.
Chaney says most of the potential presidential candidates of 2008 are spending time in New Hampshire just as they are in Iowa, helping local candidates raise money and meeting with key party people. Vilsack, for example, met privately Tuesday evening with small groups in two New Hampshire cities and this (Wednesday) afternoon he’ll meet privately with leaders of a New Hampshire union after a private lunch with business leaders. “The way you succeed in either state is to build that early, on-the-ground support because you can’t create it overnight,” Chaney says.
Vilsack was asked to speak about health care at this morning’s event and he stopped short of calling for government-paid health care for all. Vilsack instead suggested taking some Iowa initiatives nationwide, such as the state-run program which extends government-paid health care to lower income children and adults for a small premium, a premium that’s reduced if “healthy choices” are made like enrollment in a smoking-cessation program or an over-weight person loses some pounds.
“I think eventually over time we’re going to see more and more states do this and we’re going to see emphasis from the states and from the business community for the federal government to assume more responsibility in this area,” Vilsack said. Vilsack suggested there’d be savings if all insurance companies used the same forms.
The governor also proposed creation of “The American Center for the Cure.” He described as an “Apollo-like, going-to-the-moon like approach” to finding cures to diseases that are driving up the costs of health care. “I believe that we have not yet really focused ourselves and challenged ourselves to find these cures that eventually could substantially reduce health care costs,” Vilsack said.
Vilsack then fielded questions about education and energy policy. Heading into the event, many in the crowd had heard of Vilsack. Vilsack was a blank slate to Bridget Curtis, though, “I know absolutely nothing about him. Today is an exploratory day so I’ve just come to meet him and see what he?s like,” Curtis said. “I’m more interested in the health care aspect.” Afterwards, Curtis said she liked what Vilsack had to say. “I’m not sure that he’s strong enough to get into this political arena,” Curtis said. “You’ve got to be quite the fighter and I?m not sure he is.” Her husband, Steve, was more enthusiastic about Vilsack’s chances. “I was impressed, very, very impressed,” he said. “He’s obviously not a polarizer. He wants to focus on problem solving.”
Steve Curtis wishes there were 10 other candidates like Vilsack, all vying for the middle-of-the-road mantle as a moderate candidate. “The problem is when the extremists on both sides start doing their thing they’ll pick him apart and tell us something bad about him and it will be probably not true but it will be in all the blurbs,” Curtis said. “The courage of someone like him to stand up and just talk openly about his ideas and welcome the criticism I think it admirable.”