- The Washington Times - Monday, March 26, 2007

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton nabbed an endorsement from former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack yesterday, giving her campaign a boost in a state where personal relationships can win votes.

Mr. Vilsack, who dropped his own bid for the White House last month, can persuade caucusgoers to shift their support to Mrs. Clinton, several Democrats who were committed Vilsack supporters told The Washington Times yesterday.

“If she’s good enough for him, she’s good enough for me,” said Heather Ullin, 28, a child care provider in Ottumwa, Iowa. “I guess if he’s leaning toward her, she must have the morals that he would have and the responsibilities and the ideas he shares.”

Mr. Vilsack said he is backing the former first lady because “this country wants real change” and promised to campaign for Mrs. Clinton through the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucus on Jan. 14, 2008, and beyond.

“I am proud to do it because of all the candidates running, she has the best ideas, the most energy, and the values and vision to lead our country in the right direction after eight long years of George W. Bush,” he said of the New York Democrat.

Mr. Vilsack, who served two terms as governor, will be Mrs. Clinton’s national campaign co-chairman and has already sent a fundraising e-mail on her behalf.

More than a dozen former Vilsack supporters from across the state echoed Miss Ullin’s comments yesterday during informal phone conversations with The Times.

“Hillary is my No. 1, John Edwards is the No. 2. I will probably go with Clinton because that’s what Governor Vilsack says is right,” said Beverly A. Dickerson, a retired county auditor who lives in Indianola. “I’ve talked to several people who have felt that way, too.”

Mrs. Dickerson was not alone in her affection for former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, who placed second in the 2004 Iowa caucuses and was later chosen to be his party’s vice presidential nominee.

Ray Walton, a 59-year-old retiree from Indianola, said he is probably supporting Mr. Edwards because of the way the candidate handled himself last week when his wife, Elizabeth, learned her breast cancer had returned.

Still, the Vilsack endorsement is “clearly a plus” for Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Walton said.

“It’s good for her campaign, but I don’t think that means that there is no hope for the other candidates,” he said. “Iowa is not the same as political machine states when the central figure of a party tells everyone who to vote for and they do it.”

Christie Vilsack will be a co-chairman of the Clinton campaign in Iowa. Her husband did not endorse in 2004, but her backing of Sen. John Kerry in 2004 helped the Massachusetts Democrat win the Iowa caucus.

Mr. Vilsack said Mrs. Clinton helped him win his gubernatorial bid in 1998 and credited her with igniting a “spark that changed Iowa from a red state to a blue state.” The Vilsacks will join Mrs. Clinton next week when she tours the four corners of Iowa and appeals to rural voters.

“They have the respect of the voters here,” said Maxine Baxter of Burlington, a 2004 supporter of Howard Dean. “They will nudge people toward Hillary Clinton.”

Also yesterday, Mrs. Clinton hosted a town hall forum in Des Moines, where she promised universal health care if she is elected. She told voters she hasn’t presented a plan yet because “I want the ideas that people have, I want to hear from you.”

She also directed them to her Web site to read her proposals, a subtle dig at Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, who was told by a voter at a Nevada forum Friday night that his health care plan was tough to find on his Web site, according to press reports.

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