Friday, December 19, 2008

Vilsack 9th in line to presidency

In politics it is often said that a few months represent an eternity.

That really is the case with former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, the next secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. He will be part of a powerful one-two Hawkeye State punch steering farm policy as U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, chairs the Senate Agriculture Committee.

This past summer, Vilsack drove himself from Des Moines to Carroll where he campaigned for Democratic congressional candidate Rob Hubler. Fewer than 10 people were at the event.

Vilsack, an early and outspoken supporter of Hillary Clinton's presidential bid who campaigned several times on her behalf in Carroll, seemed very much the forgotten man, a politician on his way out, not up.

At the dinner table that mid-August night at Crossroads Bistro, Vilsack openly complained, knowing I was a reporter, about the attitude of the Barack Obama campaign toward Clintonites like himself, going so far as to note that a young Obama staffer spotted the former Iowa governor at a political event and told Vilsack it was good he joined the Obama camp - even it if was a little late.

Now Vilsack will be part of the Obama cabinet. He's actually ninth in line to presidency according to the official rules of succession. Vilsack is behind the vice president, speaker of the House, president pro-tempore of the Senate, secretary of state, secretary of the treasury, secretary of defense, attorney general and secretary of the interior.

The first official major party candidate for president himself in 2008, Vilsack dropped out early in 2007 because he couldn't raise enough money. When Vilsack exited, the weekly Washington Post "Fix" ranking of candidates in the Democratic and Republican presidential nominating processes replaced Vilsack in the No. 5 Democratic slot with U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn.

(This originally appeared as part of a column in The Carroll Daily Times Herald).

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