Who Is Tom Vilsack? Hillary Clinton's Possible Vice President Pick Checks Off Several Boxes

WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 24: U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack testifies during a House Committee on Agriculture hearing regarding the state of the rural economy, on Capitol Hill, February 24, 2016 in Washington, DC. On Tuesday, Vilsack stated he was confident that Congress will pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a multi-nation trade agreement between the United States and 11 other countries. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Source: Drew Angerer/Getty Images News/Getty Images

With the DNC convention right around the corner, new names of potential VP picks are popping up, and Clinton's decision should be coming any day now. It's got me asking about one of the names: Who is Tom Vilsack? Rumors that the current Secretary of Agriculture has ended up on Clinton's short list for VP are coming as a bit of a surprise since his name hasn't come up much before in this race.

Previously there was speculation that people like Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren or Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown would be at the top, but now it's someone who hasn't previously been mentioned on the speculative lists. So why has he risen to the top, and what are his credentials that make him worthy of the coveted position?

Even though we haven't heard much about him, Vilsack has an American story of an underdog steadily climbing the political ladder. He grew up in an orphanage in Pittsburgh, according to the Associated Press, stayed on the East Coast to finish law school, and eventually became governor of Iowa, where he served two terms. And although he's flown under the radar, he's been a key player in other political campaigns. In the 2004 presidential election, John Kerry considered adding Vilsack as VP to his ticket, until he chose John Edwards as a running mate instead. Now, since the beginning of Obama's first term in office, Vilsack has served as the Secretary of Agriculture for the administration.

Reports are surfacing that Clinton is looking for a running mate who has a dependable national security standing, and his outspoken opposition to the Iraq War could help. In any event, that's just one of the many boxes she'll need to check from a strategic voter-targeting perspective. Perhaps more importantly, she'll need to focus on white men and those without college degrees, since that's where a Washington Post-ABC News poll says Clinton's trailing Trump — and on those fronts, Vilsack could be a big help. Having successfully served as governor of a Midwestern state, and with his modest upbringing potentially appealing to the middle to lower classes, he could give her just the bump she needs.

Not to mention, if Clinton's looking for someone who is tough and isn't afraid to stand up to Trump, like Elizabeth Warren has been doing, Vilsack might be one to pick up where she left off. Apparently he didn't mince words about the potential opponent according to an AP interview:

I get really irritated when I hear Donald Trump say, "Let's make America great again." I look at it and I think, wait a second, I started out life in an orphanage. I didn't have a last name ... America gave me this opportunity to go from that beginning to sitting in the White House in the Cabinet Room with the president of the United States.

Vilsack's reputation is one that is considered solid and stable with the most controversial thing about him being that he supports the TPP — something that's been a sticking point for some Democratic voters, especially Sanders fans. If Clinton wants a safe choice, Vilsack might be it.

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