A look back at the 2008 election and Secretary Vilsack’s role

February 23, 2011

Photo of Secretary Tom Vilsack

U.S. Sec. of Agriculture Tom Vilsack

It was exactly four years ago today, Feb. 23, 2007, that then former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack (D-IA) announced he was getting out of the 2008 presidential race due to monetary constraints. Vilsack had also been the first to enter the race as the Democratic Party’s nominee for President of the United States, officially filing papers with the FEC to form his presidential campaign committee Nov. 9, 2006.

Vilsack kicked off his campaign Nov. 30, 2006; considered a long-shot candidate. However, Vilsack often repeated that when it came to elections he often started as an underdog, but that he had yet to lose a race.

But after just three months, the campaign was over, never really gaining much traction. He never placed any staff on the ground in New Hampshire, the first and a key primary election state. A senior campaign official said at the time the campaign simply could not keep up with the campaign funds that rivals like Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were raising.

Shortly after ending his 2008 bid for the White House, Vilsack endorsed Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) and was named the national co-chair for Clinton’s presidential campaign. Clinton placed third in the Iowa Democratic caucus to Obama and Edwards. Following the final primaries on June 3, 2008, Obama had gained enough delegates to become the presumptive nominee. In a speech before her supporters on June7, Clinton ended her campaign and endorsed Obama.

On Dec. 17, 2008, then President-Elect Barack Obama announced Vilsack’s selection to be the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture. Vilsack’s nomination was confirmed by the United States Senate by unanimous consent Jan. 20, 2009. Vilsack’s appointment was rumored to be part of the “deal” the Clintons had brokered when Hillary reluctantly conceded the Democratic Presidential nomination to Obama.

Vilsack served as the 40th Governor of the State of Iowa, first elected in 1998 and then re-elected to a second four-year term in 2002.

Tom Vilsack is not a native son of the state of Iowa. He was born in Pittsburgh, PA, abandoned at birth and placed in a Roman Catholic orphanage. He was adopted by Bud Vilsack, a real-estate agent and insurance salesman, and Dolly Vilsack, a homemaker.

He attended a preparatory high school in Pittsburgh, and received his Bachelor’s degree in 1972 from Hamilton College in New York, and Juris Doctor in 1975 from the Albany Law School.

Vilsack met his future wife, Ann Christine “Christie” Bell, while at college in New York. The couple were married Aug. 18, 1973, in Bell’s hometown of Mount Pleasant, Iowa. The couple moved to Mount Pleasant in 1975, where Tom Vilsack joined his father-in-law in law practice.

Vilsack was elected mayor of Mount Pleasant in 1987; and elected to the Iowa Senate in 1992.

Tom Vilsack narrowly won the 1998 gubernatorial general election; it was the first time in 30 years that a Democrat was elected Governor of Iowa. Gov. Terry Branstad (R-IA) preceded Vilsack, having served 16 consecutive years as governor. Governor Branstad was reelected to the post in the 2010 election.

For most of Vilsack’s tenure as governor, Republicans held majorities in the Iowa General Assembly. Following the Nov. 2, 2004, elections, the Senate was nearly evenly split between Democrats and Republicans. Republicans held a 51–49 majority in the House of Representatives.

In 2001, Vilsack served as a Chair of the Midwestern Governors Association; and he was chair of the Democratic Governors Association in 2004. In 2005, Vilsack established Heartland PAC, a political action committee aimed at electing Democratic governors. Vilsack left office in 2007; he did not seek a third term as governor.


GOP presidential contenders make host of political blunders

February 22, 2011

EditorialOops artwork

Despite the fact that President Obama is vulnerable in the next election due to his many unpopular political positions, the GOP’s presidential contenders seem to be making a host of political blunders.

Here are some of the recent “Top 5.”

  • Taking sides in Wisconsin’s labor debate and protests. The union in Wisconsin represents state employees of all political persuasions, not just Democrats. Nothing infuriates voters more than getting in their pocketbooks; in this case, the paychecks of Wisconsin’s employees. Aligning with a Republican governor for the sake of party solidarity is a strategic blunder.
  • Playing dodge ball versus showing leadership. Lines like “I’m seriously looking at running for president,” “I’m not ruling it out” or “I’m going to pray and talk to my family” have become lame and tiresome. A courageous leader doesn’t second guess himself or herself.
  • An inflated ego that says “I am well known” and don’t need to be introduced to the Iowa electoral.
  • The compulsion to comment on every issue, especially every hot social issue, like abortion and religious freedom.
  • Letting the Evangelical Christian right leadership in Iowa lead you around the state. The Associated Press reported this week that “The Iowa caucus might have gotten too conservative for its own good.” The Iowa Republican party’s shift to the far right may be why high-profile contenders like Mitt Romney are spending less time in the state. It could also alienate moderates and independents in the state.

New York listeners follow Iowa voters and presidential issues

February 13, 2011

On Feb. 7, one year from the 2012 Iowa Caucuses, WNYC announced that Joyce Russell, statehouse reporter for Iowa Public Radio, will join the station as It’s A Free Country launches a new collaboration with Iowa Public Radio to track voters and issues. WNYC 93.9 FM and AM 820 are New York’s flagship public radio stations, broadcasting programs from National Public Radio and Public Radio International.

Iowa Public Radio includes WOI AM and FM at Iowa State University, WSUI-AM and KSUI-FM at the University of Iowa, and KUNI-FM and KHKE-FM at the University of Northern Iowa. The operations have combined revenues of about $7 million annually and about 60 employees.


Bush(es) on 2012 presidential ballot

February 12, 2011

None of the top GOP presidential contenders has officially filed as a candidate, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t dozens of Americans anxious to serve their country. A total of 85 individuals have filed their Statement of Candidacy with the Federal Election Commission to run for president in 2012. See the “Candidates-Declared” section of this site for the complete listing.

The names you won’t find on the list are Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, Mike Huckabee, Tim Pawlenty or most anyone else whose name you’d recognize.

You will find some of the dark horse and unusual candidates previously featured on this website, like: Jonathon “The Impaler” Sharkey, a Republican from Florida; Randal Terry, the outspoken pro-life activist and founder of Operation Rescue; and self-proclaimed “King of the Birthers,” Andy Martin.

If you’re looking for a household name, how about Bush. Tanner Cline McCumber Bush and Savannah Jewel McCumber Bush included on their filings a claim to being the “legal son” and “legal daughter” of John “Jeb” Bush, former governor of Florida. Handwritten in the margins of their documents is a statement that they have been filed by “Laura Jane McCumber Bush,” the “legal wife of Jeb Bush due to the worlds largest terrorists organization plotting our assassination.” Laura Jane McCumber filed her own Statement of Candidacy last June. The McCumbers live in South Lake Tahoe, Calif.

Laura Jane McCumber’s Myspace page may lend a clue to the credibility and legitimacy of their candidacies and claims. The outrageous allegations and rantings on the site are a clear indication of someone detached from reality. My guess is that Martha Stewart is not planning Savannah’s wedding, the boxes delivered to her house are not part of a government sting operation, and no one is casting spells on her.


Potential GOP candidates shy away from presidential debates and Iowa caucus

February 1, 2011

Persons on the GOP candidates-to-watch list have yet to officially announce their candidacy for the 2012 presidential election; all indications are they don’t intend to until this spring or summer. At least one potential contender has said he has no plans to participate in the spring debates and another may be shying away from the Iowa caucus.

Politico and NBC News announced plans, in conjunction with the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, to host the first debate on May 2. Fox News and the South Carolina Republican Party are also organizing a debate at the Peace Center in Greenville, S.C., on May 5.

The Ames Straw Poll will be held Aug. 13, 2011, and Iowa caucuses Feb. 6, 2012.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee told an audience last week he has no plans to participate in a series spring debates.

I don’t want to get suckered into taking on the schedule because it’s what the media wants us to do,” Huckabee told a group at The King’s College in New York City, according to the Christian Post. “You want to schedule a debate for March or May, knock yourselves out. If I’m not there, you can still have it. But I’m not going to be there.”

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour and Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels have both said they won’t announce plans until their legislative sessions wrap up later this spring.

Front-runner, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, may be taking a different strategy this go-around as well. According to a report by National Journal’s Reid Wilson, Romney’s team has spoken with consultants about the prospect of skipping the Iowa caucus and launching a campaign from New Hampshire. Romney spent a large share of funding in Iowa in 2008, only to finish behind Huckabee.

But could Romney or anyone else afford to skip Iowa? In modern presidential campaigns there has been no way to survive the winnowing effect if a candidate elects not to participate in either of the first two states; case in point John McCain in the 2000 election. Another example – Al Gore who bypassed both Iowa and New Hampshire to focus on the Southern states in 1988.


Lack of name recognition and funding doesn’t stop presidential candidates

January 23, 2011

It seems a lack of major party backing, name recognition and significant financial support are not sufficient deterrents to Anthony Tubbs, Randall Terry and John Davis, all individuals who have recently announced they are running for President of the United States.

Anthony Tubbs: Tubbs is a Bossier City, Louisiana, businessman. Last week, standing outside the U.S. Courthouse in Shreveport in front of a small group of friends and neighbors, Tubbs announced that he was making an independent run for The White House. But, Tubbs’ criminal history will certainly be a major hurdle in his unlikely election to the country’s highest office. He has a prior conviction for arson with intent to defraud and past charge for writing bad checks. In response to his criminal skeletons, Tubbs said, “The people of this country are worried about where we’re going form here on. Not something that happened many years back that, again, I was totally exonerated from and given a gubernatorial pardon.”

Tubbs claims to have worked as a consultant in the auto industry, before opening an appliance store in Bossier City. He previously faced bankruptcy, losing his home and car. But says these personal setbacks make him better prepared…”I’m as experienced an American as it gets. I’ve gone through all the problems that plague America. So I feel the people’s pain.”

Randall Terry: Terry says he will challenge President Obama in the Democratic primaries. He made his announcement standing outside of the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. While not known in political circles, Terry is an outspoken pro-life activist and founder of Operation Rescue.

Operation Rescue is one of the leading pro-life Christian activist groups, to which Terry is no longer affiliated. Operation Rescue President Troy Newman said Terry does not have the group’s support and does not represent Operation Rescue in any way. Newman went on to say, “Mr. Terry’s comments are offensive and out of touch. His comments are only meant to inflame emotions and garner him personal publicity and financial support, to which he has no accountability.”

Terry was introduced by Rabbi Yehuda Levin, founder and Rabbi of Congregation Mevakshei Hashem, spokesperson for the Rabbinical Alliance of America and a member of the advisory committee of the organization Jews Against Anti-Christian Defamation. Rabbi Levin said, “I’m here as a religious Jew and a proud and grateful American to support the candidacy of pro-life and family values democrat Randall Terry for President of the United States. As one of millions of disenfranchised Catholics, Jews, Evangelicals and Muslims, we want to see the party that panders to deviancy and no choice permitted, pro-newborn babies executed – we want to see that party returned to decency and respect for life and family values.”

Terry’s platform is focused primarily on “hot-button” social issues – pro-life, marriage between a man and a woman only, and human rights and freedom.

While Terry acknowledges that defeating President Obama in the primaries is a long shot, he said he has made it his goal to defeat the President Obama in the Iowa caucuses, where Terry claims anyone can become a “democrat for a day” and participate in the process by simply showing up.

Claiming he is “very serious” about his campaign, Terry has started soliciting funds by mail, will be distributing fund-raising envelopes at pro-life events taking place in Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia on the 38th anniversary of Roe versus Wade, and plans to visit Iowa. His official campaign slogan is, “A Democratic primary for President – to bring Americans face to face with aborted babies.” 

John Davis: A 1975 high school graduate, Davis is the head of Blue Star Industries in Grand Junction, Colorado, a construction and development business. He is also the father of six, grandfather of four and husband of 30 years. Davis said he decided to seek the presidency because “we need a change.”

Davis declared his intentions to run in a full-page ad in The Daily Sentinel and then made an announcement in front of the Mesa County Courthouse. He is hitting the road with his wife, Debra, on an 18-month “Votercade,” in which he plans to travel through all 3,200 counties in the United States. Eventually, he hopes to garner national news coverage and see his campaign for the Republican nomination take off from there.

Davis’ “Contract to America,” available on his campaign website http://www.johndavisforpresident.com, calls for a balanced budget, term limits, upholding the Constitution, common-sense leadership, less government, and border control, work visas and citizenship for legal residents.

Davis is known locally for spending about $1,000 to fashion and mail a 5-feet-by-3-feet letter to President Obama offering to meet and pray with him. Davis said, he’s had no response, “Not even a postcard.”

“I feel like the leaders of our country are taking our freedoms away,” said Davis, who carries his wrench as a symbol of fixing the country’s problems. “I believe I bring a practical, common sense approach to solving our country’s problems.”


Wild card Republican candidate forms presidential exploratory committee

January 15, 2011

Photo of Herman Cain

Conservative talk show host from Atlanta

Herman Cain, the man with many nicknames – Citizen Cain, the King and the Godfather – and self-described as the Hermanator, has formally announced he is forming a presidential exploratory committee. This allows him to raise money for a possible White House run, a step none of the other likely GOP frontrunners have taken.

Cain was in Council Bluffs, Iowa, on Saturday, Jan. 8, speaking to a group of approximately 50 people at a local restaurant. He lived in Omaha for 14 years as the head of the local-based Godfather’s Pizza, Inc. Council Bluffs was one of several stops Cain was making that weekend throughout the state to gauge interest among Republicans.

Cain is a successful businessman and conservative talk-show host of a popular radio program in Atlanta. He holds a master’s degree in computer science from Purdue University and was a corporate vice president for Burger King before leaving that job to serve as CEO of Godfather’s Pizza, saving the company from bankruptcy. Previously, he served as chairman of the board of directors for the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, and was chairman of the board for the National Restaurant Association.

African-American, Cain regularly mocks racial hypersensitivity. The Atlantic related one such incident from a GOP event in New Orleans last year when Cain reviewed the liberal caricature of Tea Party activities as “racist, redneck tea baggers” and declared, “I had to go look in the mirror to see if I missed something!”

Cain is considered an underdog in the race because his political inexperience, which is limited to an unsuccessful run at the GOP 2004 Senate nomination in Georgia and a brief run for president in 2000; he doesn’t have a war chest or the grassroots political connections; and is not well known outside of Atlanta. Boosting his national recognition, Cain served as a recent guest host on the nationally syndicated Sean Hannity radio show and played a role in last year’s Hannity Freedom Concerts.

Readily admitting he would be up against a “strong field” of GOP contenders should he decide to run, Cain isn’t letting his financial and political deficits deter him. Frequently talking about overcoming his personal battle with Stage 4 colon cancer, Cain figures nothing else can stop him from delivering what he thinks the country is seeking in the next President.

Quoted in The Hill, Cain said: “People aren’t just looking for someone that can win. They’re looking for someone who can lead and the winning will take care of itself.”

In a country sick of politics as usual and seeking a fresh face in the GOP race, Cain may be the outsider with the executive-level business experience that will command the public’s attention. If you’re looking for a feisty candidate that could go toe-to-toe with Obama, Cain may be your choice. He was a major player in the defeat of HillaryCare back in 1994, after a legendary town-hall showdown with President Clinton.

On his website, Cain wrote: “The American Dream is under attack. In fact, a recent survey found 67% of the American People believe America is headed in the wrong direction. Sadly, this comes as no surprise to those of us who have watched an out-of-control federal government that spends recklessly, taxes too much and oversteps its Constitutional limits far too often.”

So the question remains – Is Cain serious about entering the presidential race or is he just seeking publicity to elevate his broadcasting career? Cain said he plans to spend several months seeing if he can muster enough support amongst donors and voters to justify a campaign.