Last Updated Dec 16, 2008 8:56 PM EST
Just three weeks ago, Vilsack, who withdrew early from the Democratic presidential race, told the Des Moines Register that he was not a candidate for the post. The Obama team had not contacted him, he said.
In the early days after Obama's victory, Vilsack, 58, was seen as a leading candidate for the post, but he faded into the background as many other names have been mentioned over the past month or so.
Vilsack, like many Midwestern politicians -- and like all Iowa politicians -- is a major proponent of ethanol and has made rural development issues a priority. He is generally well-liked by environmentalists as well as by the food industry, though there were some rumors that big agricultural trade groups were concerned enough about his support of conservation programs that they tried -- and perhaps, for a while, succeeded â€" to keep him out of contention.
In short, Vilsack represents Obama's emphasis on picking middle-of-the road, conciliatory cabinet nominees.