The '08 Veep Tour Begins
Updated 6:15 p.m.
By Shailagh Murray and Paul Kane
Sen. Barack Obama's vice-presidential search team spent another day on Capitol Hill -- and left the impression that the field is wide open.
After Sen. Kent Conrad met with James A. Johnson and Eric Holder, the North Dakota Democrat told reporters that Obama was considering current lawmakers, former lawmakers, and former military officials. One name in heavy circulation is Ret. Marine Corps Gen. James L. Jones. Conrad said he discussed specific names with the two Obama emissaries, but he would not confirm any of them.
Conrad said his preference is a pick with governing gravitas, "somebody that is seen as helping to govern, someone that is instantly credible. It's the stature of the person."
Jones has plenty of stature, but he is not well known beyond elite Washington and foreign policy circles, nor does he have any political experience -- always useful during a general-election campaign. A Jones-like pick would be an out of the box one -- but then, so is Obama's candidacy.
Some allies of the presumptive nominee worry that going the Jones route would prove too unconventional, and they are urging Obama, either through Johnson and Holder or through other channels, to select a more traditional running mate, like a popular senator or governor. Several Obama sources believe the candidate has already settled on a handful of favorites -- and possibly even one -- and is using the vetting process to see how these individuals stack up against others.
Another possible hitch with Jones is that he is, by some accounts, a longtime friend of McCain's. The two worked together during their early days in Washington; Jones served as the Marine Corps liaison officer to the U.S. Senate while McCain had the same job for the Navy, according to published reports. And Jones's son, James Jones III, is the President and CEO of Dynology Corporation, an internet firm that served as an early vendor to McCain's campaign. McCain's campaign paid Dynology more than $230,000 between March and October 2007.
Most people who know Obama also believe he will select a running mate with whom he has a strong personal connection, rather than someone from the right state or with a certain type of resume.
Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Obama's first supporter in the Senate (Conrad was the second), said his 40-minute meeting with Johnson and Holder included a review of "many, many names." Durbin told reporters, "Some of them would surprise you, some of them wouldn't."
One person in the mix, Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, a former Clinton supporter, removed himself from circulation today, asserting in a National Public Radio interview, "If drafted I will not run, nominated I will not accept and if elected I will not serve. So, I don't know how more crystal clear I can be."
The list of contenders is believed to include Sens. Joseph Biden (Del.), Christopher Dodd (Conn.), Jack Reed (R.I.), Evan Bayh (Ind.), John Kerry (Mass.), and Jim Webb (Va.); former rivals (and current N.Y. Sen.) Hillary Rodham Clinton and John Edwards; former Sens. Tom Daschle (S.D.) and Sam Nunn (Ga.); Govs. Kathleen Sebelius (Kan.) and Tim Kaine (Va.); and Senate candidate and former Gov. Mark Warner (Va.).
One interesting group includes lawmakers who have not met with Johnson and Holder. The line-up includes Biden and Dodd, veteran senators who would presumably be well acquainted with everyone under consideration, including Jones. Nor has Sen. Bob Casey's phone been ringing. The Pennsylvania freshman campaigned hard for Obama before his state's primary, although he knew Clinton was likely to win. Casey and Obama have become friends, and Pennsylvania is, of course, a key general-election battleground.
Webb and Sen. Claire McCaskill (Mo.), another close Obama ally, refused to confirm whether they had been contacted by the two emissaries, although some meetings are scheduled later, including a session with Sen. Chuck Schumer (N.Y.).
Posted at 6:00 PM ET on Jun 10, 2008
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