Vilsack Raises Money for 2008 Candidacy

The Associated Press
Friday, November 10, 2006; 6:11 PM

DES MOINES, Iowa -- Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack says he moved quickly to declare his presidential plans because of the need to raise money and lay the groundwork for his longshot campaign.

Vilsack, a two-term Democratic governor who opted not to seek re-election this year, played down the timing of his announcement, which came just hours after news of the Democrats' midterm election gains.

"These are one-day stories," Vilsack said Friday in a telephone interview from a Chicago airport, returning to Iowa from a fundraising trip in California. "These are not things that have a lasting impact and we've got to get started. We've got a lot of work to do."

Vilsack returned to Iowa for his annual fall pheasant hunt in the fields outside Cedar Rapids on Saturday, but he acknowledged that his focus must be on getting a quick start on his presidential campaign. He is little-known outside his home state and will face rivals with an enormous financial edge.

"I don't have the advantage that others may have to roll over resources they've collected from Senate or other campaigns," said Vilsack.

He said he was confident he could raise enough money, arguing that he was an accomplished fundraiser in his campaigns for governor and played a lead role in drumming up cash for Iowa Gov.-elect Chet Culver, who breezed to victory Tuesday.

"It's not a problem. You raise what you raise," Vilsack said. "I raised more money than people thought in 1998, and I certainly raised more money than people thought in 2002, and I certainly helped Chet Culver raise a lot of money this year."

More important is telling the story of his two terms in office, Vilsack said, ticking off statistics about Iowa's improved economy, gains in health coverage and climbing student test scores.

"The biggest challenge is having people know what we've done and what we're capable of doing," he said. "Once people know what we've done and what we're pretty capable of doing, we will be an attractive candidate."

Vilsack has opened a campaign headquarters in Des Moines and is starting to build the core of a campaign staff. The initial focus will be on Iowa and a few states that hold early tests of strength, mainly New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada.

"We are going to have a presence in those other states," said Vilsack. "Obviously this process starts in three or four states and that's where the initial focus will be."

Iowa's leadoff precinct caucuses could be especially challenging because as a former governor, the expectation will be an easy win. Anything less could badly damage his prospects.

Vilsack said he's ready.

"We have to begin the process of encouraging Iowa Democrats to look at this campaign as a viable campaign," said Vilsack.

"I think we've gotten a pretty good start."

© 2006 The Associated Press