Obama narrows VP field


As it became clear Friday night that a number of Democrats were no longer under consideration to be Sen. Barack Obama's running mate, Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (Del.) emerged as the likeliest choice to be announced Saturday, barring a complete surprise pick.

Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine and Sen. Evan Bayh (Ind.) told supporters they learned from Obama on Friday that they were not the pick, sources said, while Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) has also been ruled out, an official close to Clinton said.

Meanwhile, planning meetings at Obama's Chicago headquarters have increasingly focused on Biden, sources have said. One source cautioned, though, "We may surprise you yet."

ABC News reported late Friday that the Secret Service has dispatched a protective detail to assume Biden's immediate protection, a further indication that Obama is looking Biden's way. Biden stayed out of public sight all day.

On a day in which speculation about Obama's pick reached a fever pitch, his campaign said that the choice would be announced Saturday morning by text message. Obama is scheduled to introduce his running mate Saturday afternoon at a rally in Springfield, Ill.

Obama himself acknowledged that he had made up his mind days ago, but the closely held information remained secret going into the weekend. None of the leading contenders were willing Friday to discuss publicly their talks with Obama.

"It really is amazing," marveled Thomas A. Daschle, the former Democratic majority leader and a close Obama confidant. Daschle said even many senior Obama advisers had not been informed as of Friday morning &

and that he himself was still in the dark.

Obama called Kaine on Friday to tell him he had chosen someone else, two sources close to the governor said.

"I guess we are not surprised, but we wouldn't have been surprised the other way," said Jinks Holton, Kaine's mother-in-law.

News crews staked out the homes of those believed to be on the shortlist, including Biden, Kaine, Bayh, and even Rep. Chet Edwards (Texas), a conservative Democrat and latecomer to the guessing game.

In Kansas, Gov. Kathleen Sebelius declined to say whether she had heard from Obama recently, saying it will be "exciting news" when the choice is made public.

Convention planners released a schedule of events showing that Sebelius will hold a kickoff press briefing Sunday morning in Denver, not exactly the kind of activity a vice presidential candidate would be expected to participate in.

Speculation also swirled around Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) as one of her supporters said that she had not been officially vetted by the Obama campaign, despite Obama's repeated statements that she "would be on anybody's short list."

Clinton was not asked for the paperwork associated with being vetted and did not interview for the job; senior Obama advisers countered that she had been vetted in public over the course of the campaign and her decades in political life. But Obama advisers also have made no secret of their reluctance to consider Clinton all along, and, in giving both her and her husband prominent speaking roles at the Denver convention, signaled that she would play a different kind of role in the Obama candidacy.

Reporters culled every source for news of the pick, tracing the tail numbers on private planes scheduled to head from the home states of some of the contenders to Chicago on Saturday morning. A Kansas City television station reported that "Obama-Bayh '08" stickers were being mass-produced at a local factory. The scheduled appearances on Sunday's morning talk shows offered other potential clues: Kaine is slotted to appear on "Fox News Sunday." Caroline Kennedy, a co-chair of the vice presidential selection committee, will appear on "Meet the Press," as will House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the top booster of the idea of adding Edwards to the ticket.

Meanwhile, at home in Arizona, Sen. John McCain predicted that the Democratic convention will produce a huge bump for his rival, part of an ongoing effort to raise expectations for Obama's historic nomination.

In a memo from one of the GOP candidate's top strategists, McCain's campaign predicted that "Obama will see a significant bump, and believe it is reasonable to expect nearly a 15-point bounce out of a convention in this political environment."

McCain's campaign is trying to raise expectations to a point Obama can't possibly reach. In fact, there's reason to believe that his bounce will be quickly countered by McCain's choice of a vice presidential nominee and the start of the GOP convention.

But the McCain memo gave some backing for the idea of a big Obama bump, citing a 16-point bump that Bill Clinton got after his 1992 convention and a 10-point bump that Jimmy Carter got after his.

Obama campaign senior strategist Robert Gibbs responded to the "convention spin memo" in a statement, saying, "Presidential races are close, and we expect this one to be no different. But they should figure out how to spin the fact that John McCain owns a dozen houses and thinks the fundamentals of our economy are strong before trying to spin our convention."

On CBS's "Early Show," Obama said this about his pick: "Obviously, the most important question is, is this person prepared to be president? Second-most-important question, from my perspective, is: Can this person help me govern? Are they going to be an effective partner in creating the kind of economic opportunity here at home and guiding us through some dangerous waters internationally? And the third criteria for me, I think, was independence. I want somebody who is going to be able to challenge my thinking and not simply be a yes-person when it comes to policy-making."

Kumar and staff writer Tim Craig reported from Richmond.

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