WASHINGTON – It's not every day that the governor of Iowa comes to the nation's capital to deliver a scathing economic speech against the current administration.
But it's not every year that the chief executive of a Midwestern state is considered a possible running mate for the Democratic ticket.
From a podium in a small auditorium at Georgetown University on Friday, Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack (search) noted that he was in the same place in which then-Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton first proposed his economic plan for the country. As chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, Vilsack fills a position that at least two others have used to gain national prominence — President Clinton and Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean (search).
But despite the appearance of auditioning for the No. 2 spot, Vilsack dismissed questions about his interest in the job. "That's not what this is about," he said. "What this is about is holding an administration accountable for policies that are hurting people."
Vilsack waited until the end of his nearly hour-long speech to name the presidential candidate he endorsed last month, mentioning one of John Kerry's job creation proposals he supports.
His tax positions also mirror those of Kerry, who supports short-term, limited tax relief that targets the middle class, rather than the broader cuts that Bush wants made permanent.
Vilsack used his speech to criticize the Bush administration's economic decisions, saying the country is in a "slow-motion crisis" that was preventable, predictable and reversible.
"This administration has pursued the most shortsighted, breathtakingly misguided economic policy of any in my lifetime," he said.
In what many saw as a smart political move, Vilsack refrained from throwing his support to Kerry until after Iowa's Jan. 19 caucuses. His wife, Christie Vilsack (search), endorsed Kerry one week before the election, which the Massachusetts senator won in an upset that helped propel him to the front of the race.
Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, who endorsed Dean before the caucuses, brought up Vilsack's name as a possible running mate more than two weeks ago. He said the governor, now in his second term, has proven he can win in a Republican-leaning state and argued that Vilsack could help deliver the industrial Midwest.
Vilsack is not the only Democratic governor who has been mentioned as a possible vice president. With Kerry — pegged by some opponents as an out-of-touch Northeastern liberal — in sight of the nomination, some party strategists say it makes sense to balance the ticket with someone from outside of Congress and another part of the country.