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Iowa Gov. Vilsack enters 2008 field

Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack announced his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination Thursday, calling himself a Washington outsider with heartland appeal.

Vilsack emphasized the nexus between oil dependence, national security and the economy, saying he would give high priority to weaning the nation off foreign oil and promoting alternative energy.

"Energy security will revitalize rural America," Vilsack said "Energy security will allow us once and for all to remove and reduce our dependency on foreign oil from foreign countries that do not like us."

Vilsack, the first Democrat to enter the race, vowed to "create change" and resist the "endless partisan debates."

WASHINGTON

Defense nominee meets with senators

Robert Gates, President Bush's choice to take over the Defense Department, met Thursday with three Democratic senators who will be asked to vote on his confirmation next week.

Gates did not run into any opposition, even from senators who in 1991 voted against his confirmation to head the CIA when Bush's father was president.

The Senate Armed Services Committee has scheduled a confirmation hearing Tuesday on Gates, who would succeed Donald Rumsfeld. A vote by the full Senate is expected later in the week. Gates met Thursday with Sens. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., and Byron Dorgan, D-N.D.

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