SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Barack Obama's newly minted running mate will join the Democratic hopeful onstage Saturday at a rally in this capital city where Obama launched his White House bid, a campaign official said.
A senior Obama adviser told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Tuesday that Obama and his veep 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.
The disclosure narrowed the window Obama has to reveal his running mate. The list of possibilities is widely believed to be down to Delaware Sen. Joe Biden, Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh and Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, who planned to campaign with Obama Thursday in his home state.
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.
"We could pick up the V.P. any time," Dunn said in an interview.
The campaign's announcement said only that the Illinois senator would begin his trip to the party's national convention at Saturday's event. The Democratic National Convention begins Monday in Denver.
At a town-hall meeting in Raleigh, N.C., 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 told the audience. "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.
Those believed to be on Obama's short list stayed mum.
Biden coyly told reporters staking out his home in Delaware, "I'm not the guy," as he drove by. Sebelius, in an interview with the AP before she stumped for Obama in Michigan, professed no inside knowledge of when word would come.
"A week from tomorrow we will all know," she said, referring to when the running mate is scheduled to accept the nomination at the convention.
During an address to the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Orlando, Fla., Tuesday morning, Obama praised Biden, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman, for proposing an additional $1 billion in reconstruction projects in the Republic of Georgia after the Russian invasion.
Only Obama, his wife, Michelle, a handful of his most senior advisers and his two-member search committee know for certain who has been vetted and discussed. Staffers were already in place to support Obama's pick, including more than a dozen seasoned operatives who have set up shop in the campaign's Chicago headquarters.
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 could announce his vice presidential choice on Friday, then appear with the person on Saturday in the same place where his campaign began.
The running mate decision also looms for 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 in St. Paul, Minn.
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."
Dunn, the Obama adviser, stirred the pot by saying McCain "needs to figure out if he's going to let Rush Limbaugh and the right wing of his party direct his choice."
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. Pawlenty was gearing up for a weekend campaign swing in Ohio and Pennsylvania on McCain's behalf, and said he might travel to Denver next week as a McCain surrogate during the Democratic National Convention.
Beth Fouhy reported from Raleigh, N.C.; Associated Press writer Nedra Pickler in Chicago contributed to this report.
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