Democratic Gov. Tom Vilsack of Iowa took the initial step in his long-shot bid for the White House Thursday, establishing a presidential campaign committee and seeking an early jump on 2008.

"Americans sent a clear message on Tuesday. They want leaders who will take this country in a new direction," Vilsack, Iowa's two-term governor, said in a statement. "They want leaders who share their values, understand their needs, and respect their intelligence. That's what I've done as governor of Iowa, and that's what I intend to do as president."

Vilsack filed documents with the Federal Election Commission to create the committee.

Although the favorite son in the early voting state, the Democratic governor has trailed the other potential candidates in early polling, among them front-runner New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and 2004 vice presidential nominee John Edwards.

Vilsack is the first Democrat to make a formal declaration for the presidency although a number of better known candidates are presumed to be running.

Likewise, Rep. Duncan Hunter of California is the only announced candidate on the Republican side.

He plans a multistate tour on Nov. 30 to formally announce his intentions.

The first stop will be in his hometown of Mount Pleasant, where he served as mayor and which he represented in the Iowa Senate before being elected governor in 1998.

Vilsack said he will also announce his candidacy in New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Nevada and South Carolina. Vilsack was born in Pittsburgh, and the other states are all important early tests of strength in the nominating process.

"I couldn't be more honored that my wife, Christie, and our sons, Doug and Jess, are committed to joining my effort to offer the people of America and the Democratic Party my vision for the future of our country as a candidate for president," said Vilsack, a former head of the Democratic Governors Association. "Over the next several weeks they and the rest of my campaign team will put together the building blocks needed to run a successful national presidential campaign."

Vilsack heads the Democratic Leadership Council, a centrist group that former President Clinton used to help launch his candidacy. He has also traveled the country campaigning for Democratic gubernatorial candidates while considering a presidential run.

Vilsack said in his statement that he plans a "Gala Celebration of American Community" on Dec. 2 in Des Moines as his initial fundraising event. He's also opening a campaign headquarters in Des Moines. Iowa's precinct caucuses traditionally launch the nominating season, and Vilsack's first test in his home state will be vital to his presidential hopes.

Vilsack became Iowa's first Democratic governor in 30 years when he won the election, pledging at the time to limit himself to two terms. He kept that promise, working to elect Democrat Chet Culver as his replacement.