About 400 of Governor Tom Vilsack’s Iowa supporters collectively pledged $1 million to Vilsack’s presidential campaign during a Saturday night event in Des Moines.
Vilsack suggested that figure should quiet critics who questioned whether he’d be able to raise enough cash for a presidential campaign. “Don’t tell me I can’t do something. That’s a big mistake. Don’t tell me I can’t win, because I’ve never lost,” Vilsack told the crowd. “Don’t tell me I don’t have the capacity to lead this nation because I do, and I will with your help.”
Vilsack is the first politician to officially declare his candidacy for the White House, and he joked about that Saturday night in Des Moines. “Now, you know, reporters will come up to you and they’ll say ‘How can you possibly do this?’ and they start rattling off a list of people who are thinking about doing this,” Vilsack said. “Well, as of right now, I’m the frontrunner.”
Iowa Senator Tom Harkin was on hand to give his backing to Vilsack’s White House bid. “When Tom Vilsack gets out there on that road…people are going to see what we’ve seen…You are at the beginning of a very successful campaign for the next president of the United States,” Harkin told the crowd Saturday night. “…After six years, people are just hungry for a change in this country…Two more years, they’re going to be starved for it.”
Harkin said Vilsack’s candidacy is creating a “buzz” in the political sphere because Vilsack has “depth” and “gravitas.” Harkin also appeared to discount the chance that the next president will come from the U.S. Senate. “You know, the people of this country elect governors to be president, not senators. When you think about it, it’s governors that become President of the United States,” Harkin said. “Now, senators are o.k….as long as we remember our place.”
Harkin ran for president in 1992 and won the Iowa Caucuses, but faltered in New Hampshire and soon dropped out of the race. “There’s a lot of people out there who you may have read a lot about and they’re up in the polls and all that kind of stuff,” Harkin said. “…In the end of 1991, not too many people had ever heard of Bill Clinton, but there were all these people running — you know Bob Kerrey and Jerry Brown and, oh gosh, Paul Tsongas and, oh, some guy from Iowa,” Harkin said, as the crowd laughed. “But I used to sit there and listen. We’d be on the stage together. Finally, I said something to Bob Kerrey once, I said: ‘Bob, you know something? (Clinton) talks differently than we do’ and you know, over the years, I’ve seen that governors have a way of talking as a chief executive that we, as legislators, don’t.”
Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller and State Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald were there to lend their backing to Vilsack’s presidential campaign, too.
Vilsack’s campaigning in South Carolina on Sunday and Monday, as that state’s primary is the fourth contest in the 2008 presidential campaign. His first stop Sunday, though, is in the state of Nevada which is scheduled to hold Caucuses the Saturday after Iowa’s Caucuses.
Vilsack stopped in his hometown of Pittsburgh on Saturday morning, and told the Iowa crowd on Saturday night that he was reminded of his alcoholic mother’s battle to become clean and sober. “Going up into the rooms and the areas of my home where there were happy memories and some very tough and sad memories reminded me of my mother’s courage to change and the impact it had on her life and my life. Nothing’s impossible,” Vislack said. “I don’t give up on things I care about.”