DES MOINES, Iowa – Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack (search) was named Friday as the head of the Democratic Leadership Council (search), the centrist-leaning group that helped propel former President Clinton to the White House in 1992.
The post significantly increases Vilsack's national profile and gives the potential 2008 presidential candidate an opportunity to travel the country to organize fellow Democrats and craft a message for the party.
"I look forward to advancing reforms that will keep our county safe, give every American a chance to get ahead and reconnect out party with heartland values," Vilsack said.
"There is nothing wrong with our country or our party that a positive agenda won't fix," he said.
Vilsack will assume the post at a July 25 meeting in Columbus, Ohio, replacing Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh (search), who is also mentioned as a possible presidential candidate in 2008. He won't formally take over the post until later this summer at a meeting in Ohio.
Vilsack has made little secret of his interest in seeking the presidential nomination after his term as governor ends next year, and his national profile has been gradually increasing over the past year.
He was on 2004 presidential nominee John Kerry's (search) short list of potential running mates, and after the election, he was urged by some to run for chairman of the Democratic National Committee, a position now held by Howard Dean (search).
DLC founder Al From said the DLC post will give new national credibility to Vilsack, whom he said was "almost without peer among governors as a reformer."
As head of the DLC in the late 1980s and early '90s, Clinton built a reputation as a moderate candidate not linked to the party's traditional liberal base.
Vilsack said he's focused on gubernatorial and midterm elections next year, not himself, and sees a major opportunity there for Democrats, with polls showing President Bush's popularity down.
But he said the party must move beyond criticizing Bush and develop a message that appeals to a wide range of voters.
"It's not enough to be angry," he said.
The announcement came as governors from across the nation gathered in Des Moines for the annual meeting of the National Governors Association, which features a long list of potential candidates in the 2008 presidential election cycle.