Ag Policy Blog

Ag Secretary Vilsack a Contender for Clinton's Running Mate

Chris Clayton
By  Chris Clayton , DTN Ag Policy Editor
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President Barack Obama's longest-serving cabinet secretary is getting a more serious look from Hillary Clinton's campaign as a possible running mate.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack's name has been increasingly mentioned in recent days and weeks as everything from a "dark-horse" prospect to a "top-tier contender" for Clinton's VP. As the Washington Post noted today, Vilsack "could be emerging as a real contender late in the process. He’s a sleeper, but he has several qualities that make him appealing to the Clintons.

"Vilsack declined to answer questions about whether he’s being vetted during an interview on MSNBC last night, referring questions to the campaign. That’s a surefire indicator that he’s being considered," the Post stated. http://dld.bz/…

On that MSNBC interview last night, Vilsack also tossed a few barbs at Donald Trump's camp while deflecting concerns over differences between Vilsack and Clinton on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which Vilsack strongly backs. http://dld.bz/…

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The Post piece summed up Vilsack as a "low-risk choice" who has deep ties to Clinton. Hillary Clinton helped Vilsack in his first campaign for Iowa governor in 1998 when Vilsack went from a long-shot to becoming Iowa's first Democratic governor since the 1960s. Vilsack also backed Clinton over Obama in the 2008 campaign, yet Vilsack became Obama's most loyal cabinet secretary.

While Vilsack doesn't speak Spanish -- a point highlighted by the Post -- the agriculture secretary was honored on Wednesday by the League of United Latin American Citizens as USDA won the group's "federal agency of the year" award. DTN Political Correspondent Jerry Hagstrom noted Vilsack "declared that he would be proud to be considered Latino and has a Latina daughter-in-law and a Latino grandchild."

Vilsack also is a highly ethical choice for the scandal-ridden Clinton campaign. Outside of the Shirley Sherrod firing controversy in 2010, Vilsack's battles with in Washington and Congress have been largely over the usual fights regarding policies and rules.

The ag secretary could help deliver Iowa, which is certainly be a battleground state. The Post notes Clinton's lead over Trump in Iowa right now certainly falls within the margin of error. Vilsack would also perhaps draw other rural/agriculture votes with his stance supporting genetic engineering and TPP. He would undoubtedly bring a more agricultural voice even closer to the presidency as a confident to Clinton.

Since taking over as agriculture secretary, Vilsack has improved remarkably as a voice for farmers and rural America. His speeches to major agricultural groups bring a flair of patriotism with his talk about rural veterans and his emphasis that farmers are an economic engine and lifeblood for the rest of the country. Vilsack's sway among farmers is such that consistently draws standing ovations from more conservative farm organizations such as the American Farm Bureau.

While liberals may not like Vilsack's stances on trade and GMOs, the agriculture secretary also has been one of the Obama administration's biggest advocates for action on climate change. He stopped shying away from talking about climate change to agricultural audiences and stressed the importance of stressing climate science through initiatives such as soil health and climate hubs. He's also helped elevate the importance of agriculture in international climate talks as well.

Follow me on Twitter @ChrisClaytonDTN

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