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Vilsack: A True Underdog Story?

From NBC's Lauren Appelbaum
"Go, Tom, go!" Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack was greeted by supporters chanting his name in unison at Iowa Wesleyan College as he took the stage to officially announce his candidacy for president this morning. Vilsack, kicking off a five-state tour in his hometown of Mt. Pleasant today, was joined by his wife and children.

With President Bush in the Middle East today, Vilsack called for immediate action to push Iraqis to provide their own security. "We must act and we must act now. We must take our troops out of harm's way and say to the Iraqis, it is your responsibility to protect your families and your communities," Vilsack said. 

But Vilsack also focused heavily on domestic issues. He promised to continue the wave of change since the midterm elections and emphasized the importance of focusing on tomorrow and a stronger future. He drew upon his experience as mayor and two-term governor and highlighted his state's status as the national leader in renewable fuel and energy production. Vilsack's platform also includes a stronger heathcare system, more competitive education system, and energy security.

Vilsack, who lacks name recognition, acknowledged his underdog status. Speaking about his rough childhood, Vilsack said his experiences help him understand the problems people suffer today.  "[My family] grew accustomed to a declining standard of living. I know what it is like, I knew then and I know today, what it's like to be alone and to feel as if you do not belong."

An orphan, Vilsack was adopted by parents who split up for a period of time while his mother battled alcohol and prescription drug addictions. He says these experiences taught him valuable lessons: "The courage to create change can overcome the largest of obstacles, and that community can give you the confidence and the support to try and to succeed."

Tonight, Vilsack will be in Concord, New Hampshire at the Merrimack County Democrats Dinner as part of his five state "Courage to Create Change" tour.