One of the biggest stakeholders in the January 3 Iowa caucuses is Tom Vilsack, the former Democratic Governor who was briefly an ’08 candidate himself.
Vilsack traveled extensively in 2005 and 2006 and formally declared his candidacy last November, only to abruptly drop out shortly thereafter and endorse Hillary Clinton.
It was a pragmatic move from an ambitious man: With the unexpected emergence of Barack Obama, Vilsack realized it would be nearly impossible to break through in a Democratic contest featuring two full-fledged political celebrities (Clinton and Obama) and a half-celebrity (John Edwards). Plus, he faced the prospect of a humiliating showing in his home state, where Democrats resented the potential impact of his favorite son status on the primacy of their first-in-the-nation caucus. So he endorsed Hillary, hoping for a shot at the Number Two slot on her ticket. (She sweetened the pot by helping him pay off $400,000 in debt.)
Obviously, an Iowa win would bolster the 57-year-old Vilsack’s standing with Hillary – and he’s willing to play the attack dog to help deliver one. But is he really V.P. material?
On paper, the answer is yes. He’s a moderate from a swing state – Iowa is one of just three states that switched its partisan allegiance between the 2000 and 2004 elections – and his gubernatorial experience would mesh with Hillary’s background in the Senate and White House.
But he’s also a truly uninspiring public performer who would do nothing to generate excitement for a Hillary-led ticket. And while his credentials are solid, it’s not like he offers an extraordinary personal biography or professional story that would instantly add credibility to the ticket. He’d be a competent, serviceable Vice-Presidential candidate who almost certainly wouldn’t affect the outcome one way or the other. Given the hostility she faces from nearly 50 percent of the electorate, Hillary would probably need more than that from her V.P. choice.
Of course, any Vilsack speculation probably won’t even matter if Hillary trips up in Iowa in two weeks.