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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Obama appears ready to announce running mate



By Adam Nagourney and Jeff Zeleny
, Herald Tribune

WASHINGTON: Senator Barack 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 Wednesday morning, aides said.

Obama's deliberations remain remarkably closely held. Aides said perhaps a half-dozen advisers were involved in the final discussions in an effort to enforce a command that Obama issued to staff members: that his decision not leak out until supporters are notified.

Obama had not notified his choice — or any of those not selected — of his decision as of late Monday, advisers said. Going into the final days, Obama was said to be focused mainly on three candidates: Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana, Governor Tim Kaine of Virginia and Senator Joseph Biden Jr. of Delaware.

Some Democrats said they still hoped that he would choose Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, or Governor Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas, who has been under steady consideration by Obama's campaign.

By all indications, Obama is likely to choose someone relatively safe and avoid taking a chance with a game-changing selection. A similar strategic choice now faces Obama's Republican rival, Senator John McCain of Arizona, who has been under pressure from some Republicans to make a more daring choice.

Obama's advisers said he all but reached his decision while on vacation in Hawaii. They said it was the end of what proved to be an unexpectedly intense process, condensed because he did not want to start actively vetting potential running mates before Clinton quit the race in June.

By contrast, McCain, who had wrapped up the Republican nomination months earlier, began his process in late spring.

That gave Obama's team of lawyers less time to review candidates, and several Democrats said it appeared that the list of candidates who were deeply vetted was limited to about a half-dozen people. (Campaigns typically check the background of candidates who are not necessarily in play, as a way of gaining favor with various constituencies or to keep the other party off balance.)

The team of advance workers and aides involved in planning the rollout — timed to galvanize Democratic voters as Obama heads to Denver next week for the party convention — have not been told who Obama will be selecting.

If all goes according to plan, the announcement will be made with text and e-mail messages to supporters early in the morning, in time to capture coverage on the morning news shows and take advantage of a full day's news cycle.

Obama and his running mate will begin, perhaps that day, a visit to swing states. Plans call for them to be on the trail together for much of the time between the day of the announcement and the day Obama arrives in Denver, a week from Wednesday, but their most intense campaigning together will come after the convention.

Obama's schedule calls for him to awaken on Tuesday in Orlando, Florida, and by the end of the day be in Raleigh, North Carolina. By Wednesday, he is scheduled to be in Virginia. The Obama campaign has cautioned against reading anything into his schedule, saying it could be changed in an instant to accommodate the plan to introduce the running mate.

Aides said the announcement would come at the earliest on Wednesday morning.

Obama's advisers said they wanted to time the announcement to get maximum publicity going into the convention, after a stretch in which Obama was on vacation in Hawaii and McCain made good use of having the political stage largely to himself. Vice-presidential announcements are one of a handful of moments when the presidential candidates are given a clear grab at the public spotlight, and both Obama and McCain have put much thought into the timing of their announcements.

If Obama is looking to build excitement going into the convention, McCain's aides have looked to announcing his choice right after the Democratic convention, which ends Aug. 28, a Thursday, as a way of stepping on whatever bounce Obama enjoys from his nomination.

The Republican convention begins the following Monday.

Democrats close to the process said the ability to turn up information on the Web had made it easier for Obama's search team — Caroline Kennedy and Eric Holder, a former deputy attorney general — to plumb the backgrounds of prospective running mates with relatively little notice. In addition, because so many of the candidates were senators, they were required to file annual financial disclosure reports.

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