Governor Tom Vilsack’s presidential campaign kicks off Wednesday night with a “community pot luck” in his adopted hometown of Mount Pleasant.

A Des Moines Register Iowa Poll conducted in June to guage Iowans’ opinions about the next presidential race found Vilsack in fourth place, behind perceived national front-runner Hillary Clinton as well as John Kerry and John Edwards who both were on the Democratic ticket in 2004. Shortly afterwards, Vilsack told Radio Iowa that fourth-place showing shouldn’t have been a surprise. “I don’t know why anybody expected that to be any different than it was,” Vilsack said in mid-June while he was campaigning in New Hampshire. “I mean, I haven’t spent millions of dollars. I haven’t asked anybody for a vote. I haven’t even told them I’m running for president.”

That’s all changed now. On November 9th, Vilsack formally jumped into the 2008 presidential race with “both feet” by filing the documents necessary to form a campaign committee and on Thursday morning Vilsack will deliver a speech in Mount Pleasant to outline his vision for the country.

But on Wednesday night, Vilsack, his wife Christie and their Mount Pleasant friends will recreate a meal that changed the course of Vilsack’s life. “Thirty-six years ago when Tom Vilsack first came to Mount Pleasant Christie Bell introduced him to her family and the community by throwing a pot luck,” says Vilsack advisor Jeff Link. “It was the first time he’d ever been to (a pot luck) and that’s why we thought it was appropriate that now that he’s going to be introduced to the nation, it should start off with a pot luck as well.”

Link concedes his own contribution to the evening feast will likely be a bag of chips, but says other Vilsack friends will be bringing 80 different dishes to choose from — some Jell-O salads, for sure, as well as 16 different pies and several roasters full of meat. “Several people are bringing their best dishes,” Link revealed to Radio Iowa on Tuesday evening. “Christie Vilsack is bringing her cheesy corn casserole which won a blue ribbon at the Iowa State Fair.”

Link cannot comment on the casserole, however, because he’s never sampled it before. “But I’m looking forward to getting in line early, because I don’t think the dish will last that long,” Link says.

Earlier this month, Vilsack told a group of supporters on a telephone conference call that Democrats had gotten “half the job done” by “taking back” the U.S. House and Senate this November. Vilsack called himself a “proven winner” who can complete the job in November, 2008 by claiming the White House. “I’m dead serious about this,” Vilsack said.