MOUNT PLEASANT, Iowa -- Governor Tom Vilsack announced his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination yesterday, positioning himself as a Washington outsider with Heartland appeal.
Vilsack emphasized the nexus between oil dependence, national security, and the economy, saying he would give high priority to weaning the nation off foreign oil and promoting alternative energy sources.
"Energy security will revitalize rural America," Vilsack told the more than 500 cheering backers in the small town where be began his political career, as mayor. "Energy security will allow us once and for all to remove and reduce our dependency on foreign oil from foreign countries that do not like us."
Taking aim at President Bush, Vilsack said, "We have in the White House a president whose first impulse is to divide and to conquer, who preys on our insecurities and fears for partisan gain."
Vilsack, the first Democrat to formally enter the race, vowed to have "the courage to create change" and resist the "endless partisan debates."
In an era when voter unhappiness with corruption and partisan wrangling in Washington, D.C., is especially high, political analysts said Vilsack is particularly well positioned as a Midwestern governor to run for the White House as an outsider.
Nevertheless, Vilsack has a low profile outside Iowa, and even he acknowledges his candidacy is a long shot.
Vilsack, who is finishing his second term, headed out quickly after his announcement for events in New Hampshire, South Carolina, Nevada, and other states that will hold early tests in the nomination contest.
During his tenure as governor, Vilsack has pushed for developing alternative energy sources such as ethanol, biodiesel, and wind power.
"In the past eight years, I have helped lead our state, Iowa, to successfully changing by making our farm fields into energy fields," Vilsack said. "We became the renewable fuel leader and producer in the country. It helped us to become more economically, environmentally, and energy secure."
As governor, Vilsack, 55, has carved out a reputation as a political centrist. He balanced Iowa's budget and resisted raising taxes, but was willing to spend money on such priorities as education and health.