WASHINGTON (AP) — Barack Obama’s potential running mates ducked, dodged and semi-denied their way through a day of political intrigue Friday as the Democratic presidential contender readied a high-tech announcement of his pick for vice president.
“No, no, no, no, no, no, no, nooooo,” Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius told reporters who asked for her latest thoughts on the months-long search.
Three days before Democrats open their convention in Denver, several officials said Rep. Chet Edwards, whose district includes President Bush’s ranch in Crawford, Texas, had made the roster of potential running mates. Sens. Joe Biden of Delaware and Evan Bayh of Indiana were also in the mix, as were Gov. Tim Kaine of Virginia and Sebelius – and any unknown others Obama had managed to keep secret despite intense scrutiny.
Hillary Rodham Clinton’s prospects remained unlikely. Senior aides said the Obama campaign had never requested financial or other records from her.
Obama told reporters on Thursday he had made his choice, and aides used the prospect of a text-message announcement to try and attract additional supporters by soliciting their cell phone numbers and e-mail addresses.
Even that became occasion for intrigue.
One senior Democrat said an announcement was expected late Friday, while another said he had been told to expect nothing until Saturday morning.
Obama has arranged a joint appearance for Saturday with his running mate at the state Capitol in Springfield, Ill.
Hundreds of miles to the west, carpenters, electricians, sound stage gurus and others transformed the Pepsi Center in Denver into a made-for-television convention venue.
Tucked away in one corner were thousands of lightweight rolled cardboard tubes, ready-made handles for signs bearing the names of the Democratic ticket – once the identity of Obama’s running mate was known.
Edwards, whom Speaker Nancy Pelosi had touted for running mate, told The Associated Press in Waco, Texas, “I have had interactions with the Obama campaign over the last several months but I will not get into details.”
Kaine, a moderate governor from a swing state, boarded a private plane at a small airport for a flight that aides said would take him to suburban Denver.
Bayh, a second-term senator, attended tennis camp with one of his sons, while Biden, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, evidently spent the day at his home in Delaware.
“My answer to any question about the subject that I think you’re referring to is that all inquiries should be directed at Senator Obama’s campaign,” said Clinton, the former first lady who came close to capturing the nomination in the primaries of last winter and spring.
Despite the advice, neither Obama nor his aides were saying.
“Obviously, the most important question is: Is this person ready to be president?” Obama told “The Early Show” on CBS. Second, he said, was: “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, he added: “I want somebody who is going to be able to challenge my thinking and not simply be a ‘yes person’ when it comes to policymaking.
Among those believed in the running, Edwards, Biden and Bayh fit the mold of running mate with experience in defense or foreign policy – areas in which Obama is rated relatively poorly in the polls compared with Republican Sen. John McCain.
Clinton’s credentials were forged in the primaries and caucuses where she ran a close second to Obama in the battle for the nomination. She maintains a loyal following among Democrats, many of whom have yet to swing behind the man who defeated her.
There was no shortage of other speculation, ranging from GOP Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, who traveled with Obama to Iraq and Afghanistan, to Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee, to Democratic Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut.
The emergence of Edwards as a possible selection was the surprise of the day.
Edwards is a favorite of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who praised his “extraordinary credentials” on ABC’s “This Week” on Aug. 3 and said: “I hope he will be the nominee.”
One Democratic official with knowledge of the conversation said Obama told Pelosi recently that she would be pleased with the choice. Other Democratic officials said he was on the short list. All spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss Obama’s selection process.
Edwards, chairman of the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Subcommittee, is a nine-term moderate Democrat representing the GOP-leaning Texas district. He is well-known in Texas but does not have a national profile.
Several GOP officials said Friday that Arizona Sen. McCain, Obama’s Republican rival, had not settled on a running mate – nor offered the job to anyone – although former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty were under serious consideration. It’s likely McCain will wait to see who Obama selects before picking his running mate.
Officials said the campaign also was preparing for an “unconventional” nominee, an indication that oft-mentioned former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, an abortion-rights supporter, or Connecticut Democrat-turned-independent Joe Lieberman still could be in the running. That category also could include non-politicians whom McCain deeply admires, such as Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq.
Two officials close to Romney said he had not been offered the job. Pawlenty batted away questions Friday in a CNN interview, saying, “I’m sure he’ll make a wonderful choice for our party and for our country, and we’ll just have to wait until next Friday to find out the answer to those questions.”
The GOP convention begins Sept. 1 in St. Paul, Minn.