Politics & Government

Obama closes in on VP pick

Barack Obama's newly minted running mate will join the Democratic presidential hopeful onstage Saturday at a rally in Springfield, Ill., where Obama launched his White House bid, a campaign official said.

A senior Obama adviser said Tuesday that Obama and his vice presidential choice will appear in front of the former state Capitol where Abraham Lincoln once served. The last time Obama appeared there, he announced he was running for president.

Obama has all but settled on his choice for a running mate and set an elaborate rollout plan for his decision, beginning with an early-morning alert to supporters, perhaps as soon as this morning, aides said.

The running mate decision also looms for John McCain. In the hope of grabbing the post-convention spotlight from Obama, McCain is considering naming his running mate in the few days after the Democrats leave Denver and before the Republicans begin their convention on Sept. 1 in St. Paul, Minn.

At a town hall meeting in Raleigh, Obama repeatedly said “he” when discussing the qualities he sought in a potential running mate, even as campaign officials cautioned not to read much into his choice of pronouns.

“Let me tell you first what I won't do: I won't hand over my energy policy to my vice president and not know necessarily what he's doing,” Obama said. “My vice president … will be a member of the executive branch. He won't be one of these fourth branches of government where he thinks he's above the law,” an apparent reference to Vice President Dick Cheney's handling of his office.

The list of running-mate possibilities is widely thought to have come down to Delaware Sen. Joe Biden, Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh and Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, who planned to campaign with the Illinois senator on Thursday.

Obama strategist Anita Dunn wouldn't respond directly when asked if the Springfield event would be Obama's first appearance with his choice, but she suggested the two wouldn't necessarily be related. The campaign has said it will announce the choice in a cell phone text message to supporters.

The Obama campaign's announcement said only that the senator would begin his trip to the party's national convention at Saturday's event. The Democratic National Convention begins Monday in Denver.

Those thought to be on Obama's short list also were keeping mum.

Biden told reporters staking out his home in Delaware, “I'm not the guy,” as he drove by. Sebelius, stumping for Obama in Michigan, professed no inside knowledge of when word would come.

“A week from tomorrow we will all know,” Sebelius said, referring to when the running mate is scheduled to accept the nomination at the convention.

Obama's plan could be similar to the one he followed in launching his campaign last year, when he posted a Web video to rev up supporters the day before his big speech. This time, Obama might choose to announce his vice presidential choice on Friday and then appear with the person on Saturday in the same place where his campaign began.

Pro-choice pick for GOP?

McCain's top contenders are said to include Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. Other possible choices include former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, an abortion-rights supporter, and Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman, the Democratic vice presidential pick in 2000 who now is an independent.

Underscoring how seriously McCain may be considering Ridge or Lieberman, Republican officials say top McCain advisers have been reaching out to big donors and high-profile delegates in key states to gauge the impact of putting an abortion-rights supporter on the GOP ticket.

Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh warned Tuesday that the GOP base “will totally turn on McCain” if he picks a pro-choice running mate and predicted such a move “will ensure his defeat.”

McCain dealt with criticism from Limbaugh and other right-wing talk show hosts when they attacked him during the primary campaign. McCain spokesman Brian Rogers responded to Limbaugh's latest volley by saying, “John McCain is pro-life, always has been, and his administration will be pro-life. Anyone picked as his vice president will respect those views.”

Lieberman has been traveling with McCain recently, and Pawlenty was gearing up for a weekend campaign swing in Ohio and Pennsylvania on behalf of McCain.

The Associated Press and The New York Times contributed.