by Bernie Quigley - for The Free Market News Network, 12/01/2006
Tom Vilsack, Governor of Iowa, gave a confident speech in his native place yesterday to a beautiful heartland crowd which might have come from a Frank Capra movie. It will come to mind again this Christmas when we watch the Capra classic, It’s a Wonderful Life, as the Vilsacks seem to live in George Bailey’s mythical town and Tom appears to be its mayor.
Like Longfellow Deeds, Jefferson Smith, George Bailey and all of Capra’s heroes, Vilsack sees himself as the underdog Democrat running for President in 2008.
“I have always been an underdog and a long shot,” he said. “I’ve always been inspired by the stories of ordinary citizens who worked hard, overcame adversity and succeeded.”
Pure Capra. But I don’t think he planned it like that. It’s just like that in
“I know what it means to be alone,” he told the crowd.
But for Vilsack, alone was only a starting point. Fate brought him to his father-in-law’s law office in small-town
The press and pundits waiting for him in
That’s the advise of Steve Jarding and Dave “Mudcat” Saunders, who ran Mark Warner’s race for Governor of Virginia in 2001, the first indication of a paradigm change in politics when a Connecticut-reared, Harvard-educated Nextel entrepreneur turned the tide of heartland Republicanism simply by treating country people as his equals. They also had a hand in Jim Webb’s significant victory this past month in Virginia and have written a book on their strategy called Foxes in the Henhouse: How the Republicans Stole the Heartland and What the Democrats Must Do to Run ‘em Out. It is virtually a manual for running for political office here at the burgeoning Third Millennium.
First off, they tell Democrats: Learn How to Count.
In the fifty states, they remind us, there are 535 Electoral College votes; adding 3 for D.C. and there are 538 total Electoral College votes. Divide 538 by 2 and you get 269 votes. Thus, to win the White House, a candidate has to get 269 plus 1 to have a majority of Electoral College votes.
But Democrats don’t seem to get this math, they say, and simply write off 20 primarily southern and rural states and their total 164 electoral votes. In the last Presidential election the Democrats conceded 227 electoral votes in twenty-seven states to Bush before any votes were actually cast.
The Democrats cannot win this way. If they want to be taken seriously again in Presidential politics they have to find a candidate who will appeal to the heartland. They make the point that most rural and heartland states began their political destiny as Democratic.
Today, influential Democratic strategists still look to the cities and the suburbs in hopes that the Electoral College will just go away. Press people as well, being city folk, share this delusion and continually project candidates more suited to the salad bar and the wine and cheese tasting rather than the NASCAR track. How many rural and red states are proposed Democratic frontrunners Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama likely to win today? In
But that was last week and this is now. Iowans are not going to give him a free pass, Vilsack told The New York Times, assessing his chances in the caucuses to be held in 13 months, “And they shouldn’t.”
Good spirit. Nevertheless, I think Vilsack just won the
“The Democrats must get off this cultural high ground they have been living on for the past twenty-five years,” write Jarding and Saunders. “When you want to represent people, you have to talk to them where they live. Talk to them about what they like to do for fun, what makes life enjoyable for them, what their fears are. And when you find out that they like NASCAR races, that they like country or bluegrass music, that they like to hunt or fish, don’t pass judgment on them. Embrace them.”
Some I can’t see at the NASCAR track, but others I can. Mark Warner I can, Jim Webb I can, Kathleen Sebelius, Governor of Kansas, I can, Wes Clark I can, and Tom Vilsack I can. It should be the everyman stop as Pat’s Steaks in Philly was or as the Irish pub in
“Three weeks ago, Americans courageously voted to create change,” Vilsack said. “We sent a clear message that we wanted our country led in a new and better direction. But our job is not done. We have more work to do . . . That is why I am here today - to continue our work, and to bring the courage to create change to
“Together, with the courage to create change, let us build a 21st Century economy of cutting-edge companies and technologies that lead us to energy security. Energy security will revitalize rural
“Together, with the courage to create change let us embrace a new foreign policy that renews friendships, develops alliances and isolates enemies. In
This last phrase blends well with those elsewhere today in The Washington Post, as Peter Baker and Thomas E. Ricks report that James A. Baker’s bipartisan Iraq Study Group plans to recommend withdrawing nearly all U.S. combat units from Iraq by early 2008 while leaving behind troops to train, advise and support the Iraqis, setting the first goal for a major drawdown of U.S. forces.
"Everybody understands that we're at the end of the road here,” one of the sources told the reporters.The country people in places like