McCain, Obama mum on running mates

July 29, 2008 6:21:10 PM PDT
Those who know aren't talking, but campaign watchers are continuing feverish speculation about who will be tapped as vice presidential running mates for Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain. The choices were expected to carry special weight with voters in this election: McCain would be the oldest person elected to a first term as U.S. president and Obama may be looking for a more experienced running mate since he has just four years on the national political stage.

With the Democratic national convention less than a month away, there were growing indications that Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton - once seen as a natural choice for Obama after he defeated her in an extended primary battle - has been ruled out or slipped to near the bottom of the Illinois senator's short list.

Campaign watchers now are looking to Virginia's Democratic Gov. Tim Kaine, who was playing coy Tuesday, refusing to confirm media reports that he has given the Obama campaign his financial records for review.

"I'm just not going to talk about my conversations with the campaign," he said after appearing on a Washington radio station.

McCain has likewise kept his decision-making under tight wraps and potential running mates have been just as evasive.

Minnesota's Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty said he has decided to stop answering questions about a spot on McCain's ticket because of all the gossip.

Among others believed to be getting close looks were Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh, Delaware Sen. Joe Biden and Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius for Obama; and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Ohio Rep. Rob Portman for McCain.

Obama met Tuesday with top aides and his search committee in Washington for the second time in as many days, and at least the third time this month.

He told NBC television on Sunday he was going to pick "somebody with integrity; I'm going to want somebody with independence, who is willing to tell me where he thinks or she thinks I'm wrong; and I'm going to want somebody who shares a vision of the country - where we need to go. That we've got to fundamentally change not only our policies but how our politics works; how business is done in Washington."

That comment casts doubt that Obama would choose Clinton, who has spent more than a decade in Washington as a first lady and New York senator. During the primaries, Obama portrayed her as the ultimate Washington insider while suggesting he offered a fresh approach, above partisanship.

Even so, Obama told the network: "I've said consistently that I think Hillary Clinton would be on anybody's short list."

For his part, McCain gave away even less during a Monday interview with CNN television.

"I will announce it just as soon as the process is completed," the Arizona senator said, adding he was vetting both men and women.

On Tuesday, Obama focused on the economy in separate discussions with the country's treasury secretary and central bank president and he also met with the new leader of Pakistan, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani.

Obama discussed the country's mortgage crisis with Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson by phone and later met with Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke to talk about the U.S. economy, part of his latest effort to shift his campaign's attention to domestic issues after a weeklong trip to the Middle East and Europe. Obama has talked mostly about the economy since returning.

The Illinois senator met with Bernanke for an hour, and issued a statement describing it as "informative."

Spokesman Michael Ortiz said they discussed the outlook for consumers and businesses, and the effect of rising home foreclosures on families nationwide. Ortiz said Obama "made clear his respect for the independence of the Federal Reserve system and the special importance of its role during periods of economic uncertainty."

Obama spoke by phone with Paulson as he rode to a meeting with the visiting Pakistani leader, the campaign said. As part of the government's effort to provide mortgage relief to hundreds of thousands of homeowners, Paulson has sought emergency power to rescue mortgage lending giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

The housing plan Congress approved last week, and President George W. Bush has promised to sign, would provide mortgage relief for 400,000 homeowners who cannot afford their payments. Rather than lose their homes, they will be able to refinance their mortgages with more affordable, government-backed loans.

"Sen. Obama asked how the Treasury Department plans to use its new authority with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and whether the government has the tools it needs to address the challenges in the banking industry," the campaign said in a statement. "Sen. Obama believes that the new housing legislation should be used as a way to protect homeowners and not bail out shareholders or managers."

Obama also met with Pakistan's new leader. Obama later said at a fundraising luncheon that he told Gilani "the only way we're going to be successful in the long term in defeating extremists ... is if we are giving people opportunities. If people have a chance for a better life, then they are not as likely to turn to the ideologies of violence and despair."

Obama later issued a statement calling the discussion, which included such topics as nuclear proliferation, human rights and terror threats from Pakistani tribal areas, "productive and wide-ranging." He said Pakistan is an important U.S. partner.

McCain, meanwhile, received welcome health news Tuesday. A biopsy of a small patch of skin removed from the Republican candidate's right cheek showed no evidence of skin cancer, doctors said Tuesday.

The Arizona senator, who suffered severe sun damage from his 5 1/2 years in North Vietnamese prison camps, gets an in-depth skin cancer check every few months because of a medical history of dangerous melanomas. He has survived three bouts of melanoma that included four lesions.

McCain on Tuesday held a town hall meeting with voters in Sparks, Nevada. He tried to strike a balance between the independence he boasts of and his avowed conservatism.

"As many of you know, I've been called a maverick, someone who marches to the beat of his own drum," McCain said proudly.

The Arizona senator insisted anew he would not raise taxes if elected president and vowed to appoint judges like Samuel Alito and John Roberts, conservatives named to the Supreme Court by Bush. But McCain did not back off his belief in global warming and support of alternative energy development, which is the centerpiece of his plan to revitalize the U.S. economy.