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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

Plurality-Winning Governors Elected At Century-Long High Water Mark

The rate of gubernatorial candidates elected without the support of a majority of voters is at its highest level since the 1910s.

Political Crumbs

Seeing Red

Congressman Nick Rahall's failed bid for a 20th term in West Virginia this cycle, combined with a narrow loss by Nick Casey to Alex Mooney in Shelley Moore Capito's open seat, means that West Virginia Democrats will be shut out of the state's U.S. House delegation for the first time in over 90 years. The Republican sweep by two-term incumbent David McKinley in the 1st CD, Mooney in the 2nd, and Evan Jenkins over Rahall in the 3rd marks the first time the GOP has held all seats in the chamber from West Virginia since the Election of 1920. During the 67th Congress (1921-1923) all six seats from the state were controlled by the GOP. Since the Election of 1922, Democrats have won 76 percent of all U.S. House elections in the Mountain State - capturing 172 seats compared to 54 for the GOP.


Home Field Advantage?

When the 114th Congress convenes in a few days, Maine will be represented by one home-grown U.S. Representative: Waterville-born Republican Bruce Poliquin. With the departure of Millinocket-born Mike Michaud, who launched a failed gubernatorial bid, the Pine Tree State was poised to send a House delegation to D.C. without any Maine-born members for the first time since 1821. Three-term U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree (born in Minnesota) coasted to reelection as expected, however Poliquin edged Kentucky-born Emily Cain by 5.3 points to keep the streak alive. Since 1876, a total of 208 of the 222 candidates elected to the nation's lower legislative chamber from the state have been born in Maine, or 94 percent.


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