It was a dark and stormy night

I’m on the ground in Mount Pleasant for the official launch of Tom Vilsack’s presidential campaign.  After checking into the fabulous AmeriHost right across from the Wal-Mart in Mount Pleasant shortly after three o’clock, Lee Enterprises newsman Todd Dorman and I set off for the main drag.  We drove down two major thoroughfares in town, around the town square and right by Vilsack’s house.  There are no Vilsack for president signs anywhere that we could see. 

The closest thing to a TV08 sign were the 8X11 fliers tacked up in some of the stores and restaurants in town which invited townfolk to the community potluck tonight that was thrown as a prelude to tomorrow’s big announcement speech.  "Don’t miss this historic event" was the flier’s message about tomorrow’s, well, event.  It also declared that Tom Vislack has the "courage to create change."  While the header on the piece asked people to join Tom & Christie, the only picture on the thing was the governor-glamor-shot of Vilsack. 

There were no rumors being discussed at Rumors, one of the bars in Mount Pleasant.  A handfull of patrons sat either watching "Ellen" or playing the machines in the bar (NO, they were not TouchPlay machines).  At Hawkeye Pizza & Steak, the waitress recommended the mama mia pizza (very tasty and quickly delivered) and a couple of men sat talking about the day the mayor got shot in 1987.  "I almost went to that meeting," one man said to the other.  There was no discussion of Vilsack, however.

We stopped at the Wal-Mart to buy a mouse so I wouldn’t have to use the touchpad on this laptop to edit my sound.  There were no protestors from the Wake-Up Wal-Mart movement Vilsack has joined in other rallies in other places.  There was a brave soul standing by a red kettle ringing a bell, soliciting Salvation Army donations from shoppers dashing into the store to escape the steady stream of cold rain that was later to turn to sleety stuff.

Upon arrival at the middle school where the Vilsack potluck was planned, reporters were greeted by two Vilsack staffers.  One of them was Dusky Terry, the Sec of Ag candidate who used to be an aide in the governor’s office and who is now working on Vilsack’s campaign staff.  Dusky spied the plastic container I was holding, learned that it was my famous "Scotchies" (hey, a girl who grew up in Lenox, IA knows you take something to share when you’re invited to a potluck), and I opened the container so he could have the first one.

People dumped, er, dropped off their potluck dishes at the entrance and volunteers rushed the food to the other side of the school where potluck coordinator Cindy Jones was in charge.  The food was placed on tables stretched out in a hallway.  The room where the diningtables were set up was dominated by a huge American flag draped on the east wall — directly behind where Vilsack and his wife would later stand to speak to the crowd.

Vilsack and his wife, Christie, arrived at about the same time.  WHO-TV’s Dave Price and the aforementioned newsman Todd Dorman both noticed Vilsack’s new haircut.  Sources close to Vilsack confirmed he had his hair cut earlier today, and it was a lot shorter on the sides.  Some in the media called it the haircut of the 21st century that Vilsack had needed for some time.  Vilsack, when initially questioned, said his haircut was a "state secret" — but later confirmed he had obtained the cut at the well-known Roosevelt Barber Shop in Des Moines. 

The Vilsacks spoke briefly to the crowd.  Governor Vilsack started his remarks by recognizing an Iowa National Guardsman from Mount Pleasant who served in Afghanistan — and giving him a hand-made quilt in an American-flag pattern.  Then, Vilsack presented LA Times reporter Mark Baraback with a birthday cake, as today is Baraback’s birthday.

"Are you going to sing?" Mrs. Vilsack asked her husband.

"No," Vilsack replied as a staffer carefully walked forward with the cake, candles blazing.  Then, someone in the back of the room started singing.  Vilsack joined in the singing.  There was applause, then a slightly louder roar from the crowd as Baraback successfully blew out the candles. "There’s a method to this madness, Mark," Vilsack said.  "We figure if we give you and the media folks this cake, you won’t eat the desserts and we’ll have more for us."   

You can hear the entire speech by clicking on the link at the bottom of the Radio Iowa story

Here’s how Vilsack closed:  "I just simply tonight want to say thank you to each one of you who are here because each one of you are special to us.  Each one of you has had experiences with us that are part of who we are and as we travel across this great country talking about the future of this great country we’re going to be taking with us the values, the stories, the inspiration, the support and the love of all of us and that already makes it a successful campaign as far as I’m concerned, so thank you for being here tonight and I look forward to seeing as many of you as possible tomorrow and we are going to win this thing."   

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About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.