Notes from Evan Smith
"Who isn’t running for president these days? At last count, twenty possible, plausible, presumptive, prospective candidates had declared their intentions—some availing themselves of the chance to do so on YouTube and connect with the cool kids, some releasing the pony-express equivalent of such an announcement, the ink-on-paper press release, but all sharing at least one closely held belief: that they can do a better job running the country, and especially running the war in Iraq, than the current occupant of the White House. Two such candidates-to-be have visited with us in the recent past: Senators John McCain of Arizona, a Republican, and Joe Biden of Delaware, a Democrat, each known a bit more for his tendency to shoot his mouth off first and ask questions later than his handlers would prefer. This week’s guest is somewhat more modest in both affect and ego, but no less interesting, and he has the distinction of being one of the first to throw his hat in the ring officially.
On November 30 last year, a few weeks after his fellow Democrats thumped the Republicans took back control of Congress, the outgoing governor of Iowa, Tom Vilsack, surprised no one in the know by kicking off what can best be described as an uphill battle for his party’s nomination. In a primary constellation with stars that shine blindingly bright, the 57-year-old is already having trouble getting seen and heard; the latest polls in his own bellwether home state put him in fourth place—not exactly favorite son territory. On the other hand, unlike the Hillary Clintons and Barack Obamas and John Edwardses of the world, Vilsack has real experience as a chief executive. A native of Pittsburgh and a graduate of tiny Hamilton College in Clinton, N.Y., which sources tell me is truly excellent, and Albany Law School, he served as mayor of the Iowa town of Mount Pleasant and a state senator before winning the governor’s office in 1998—the first time a Democrat was elected to lead the state in thirty years. He was reelected in 2002 and left office earlier this year as the first Democrat to be succeeded by a Democrat in seventy years. A nice guy, a smart guy, a thoughtful guy, Vilsack injects heartland values and undeniable substance into a race that’s already turning into a free for all ... and Election Day 2008 is more than a year and a half away.
- Evan Smith, Texas Monthly Talks, Broadcast 2.15.07