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Could Tom Vilsack Emerge As the Next Bill Clinton?

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When Iowa ex-Governor Tom Vilsack announced his candidacy for the presidency two months ago he was immediately labeled as a 'long shot.' While there are some similarities to the successful long-shot bid then Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton launched in 1992, the hill Vilsack must climb is much steeper.

Both Clinton and Vilsack served multiple terms as governors—Vilsack in the heartland, Clinton just south of it. Both served states that are generally viewed as purple: both have seen a fairly mixed party representation to the US House, Senate, as well as the Governor's office over the years. Arkansas usually votes for Republican presidents, but not in blow out races (John Kerry lost by just nine points in 2004). Iowa and Arkansas are also low on Electoral College votes (Iowa with 7, Arkansas with 6).

But the similarities end there. For one, Vilsack—while not old by any stretch—is not the dynamic 'boy wonder' Clinton was when elected in 1992: Vilsack is 56, Clinton was 46. Clinton's campaign and presidency was nearly derailed a few times with personal (rumors of affairs, avoiding the Vietnam draft) and political (Whitewater) scandals, while Vilsack's image is comparatively squeaky clean (and, perhaps as a corollary, a bit more dry as well).

But the biggest difference Vilsack will face in 2007 compared to Clinton in 1991 is his competition: Visack is facing at least two bonafide political superstars—one seasoned (Hillary Clinton) and one novice (Barack Obama). The candidates Bill Clinton had to defeat on his rise to the party's nomination in 1992 were 'solid statesmen,' but not superstars—three U.S. Senators (Tom Harkin of Iowa, Bob Kerrey of Nebraska, and Paul Tsongas, former Senator of Massachusetts) in addition to a few Democratic Party retreads (Jerry Brown and Eugene McCarthy).

If Clinton's ascent was a 'long-shot' 15 years ago, they may have to invent a new word for Vilsack should he beat the odds and win the party's nod in 2008.

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Remains of the Data

No Free Passes: States With 2 Major Party Candidates in Every US House Race

Indiana has now placed candidates from both major parties on the ballot in a nation-best 189 consecutive U.S. House races, with New Hampshire, Minnesota, Idaho, and Montana also north of 100 in a row.

Political Crumbs

Gubernatorial Highs and Lows

Two sitting governors currently hold the record for the highest gubernatorial vote ever received in their respective states by a non-incumbent: Republican Matt Mead of Wyoming (65.7 percent in 2010) and outgoing GOPer Dave Heineman of Nebraska (73.4 percent in 2006). Republican Gary Herbert of Utah had not previously won a gubernatorial contest when he notched a state record 64.1 percent for his first victory in 2010, but was an incumbent at the time after ascending to the position in 2009 after the early departure of Jon Huntsman. Meanwhile, two sitting governors hold the record in their states for the lowest mark ever recorded by a winning gubernatorial candidate (incumbent or otherwise): independent-turned-Democrat Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island (36.1 percent in 2010) and Democrat Terry McAuliffe of Virginia (47.8 percent in 2013).


An Idaho Six Pack

Two-term Idaho Republican Governor Butch Otter only polled at 39 percent in a recent PPP survey of the state's 2014 race - just four points ahead of Democratic businessman A.J. Balukoff. Otter's low numbers reflect his own struggles as a candidate (witness his weak primary win against State Senator Russ Fulcher) combined with the opportunity for disgruntled Idahoans to cast their votes for one of four third party and independent candidates, who collectively received the support of 12 percent of likely voters: Libertarian John Bujak, the Constitution Party's Steve Pankey, and independents Jill Humble and Pro-Life (aka Marvin Richardson). The six candidate options in a gubernatorial race sets an all-time record in the Gem State across the 46 elections conducted since statehood. The previous high water mark of five candidates was reached in seven previous cycles: 1902, 1904, 1908, 1912, 1914, 1966, and 2010.


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