By Kay Henderson Thu Nov 9, 10:49 AM ET
DES MOINES, Iowa (Reuters) - Democratic Gov. Tom Vilsack of Iowa jumped into the 2008 U.S. presidential race on Thursday, saying voters want a new direction for the country "and that's what I intend to do as president."
Vilsack, a two-term governor who is leaving office this year to concentrate on his White House bid, stressed his moderate record and a bipartisan approach on education, economic development and health care as governor of Iowa.
"Americans sent a clear message on Tuesday. They want leaders who will take this country in a new direction," Vilsack said. "They want leaders who share their values, understand their needs and respect their intelligence.
"That's what I've done as governor of Iowa, and that's what I intend to do as president," he said."
Vilsack, chairman of the centrist Democratic Leadership Council, has been traveling the country laying the groundwork for his campaign for a year.
He plans a formal announcement in Mount Pleasant, Iowa, where he began his career as mayor, in late November, followed by campaign events in New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina.
The state of Iowa will kick off the U.S. presidential campaign with its traditional caucuses in January 2008, but Vilsack's presence in the presidential field has not stopped up to a dozen other Democrats from planning to campaign there.
As many as a dozen Republicans are pondering presidential bids in 2008, when
President George W. Bush will step down and the battle for his successor is expected to be wide open.
Vilsack filed the formal paperwork for a presidential exploratory committee with the
Federal Election Commission on Thursday, and will base his campaign in Des Moines.
He is the first Democrat to make his campaign official, although several more are expected to wade in over the next few weeks. Rep. Duncan Hunter (news, bio, voting record) of California was the first Republican to take an official step toward running.
Vilsack was the first Democrat elected governor of Iowa since 1968, and has stressed his leadership as governor and ability to appeal to moderates and independents.
He enters a Democratic field expected to be led by New York Sen.
Hillary Rodham Clinton and include several governors or former governors, among them Evan Bayh of Indiana, now a senator, and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson.