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Obama nears VP announcement

Obama nears VP announcement

Sen. Joe Biden, the Senate's top foreign policy expert, is emerging as the Democrats' clear favorite to be Barack Obama's running mate _ a nomination that could be pivotal in his battle against Republican John McCain's assault on his foreign policy credentials.
Obama is expected to announce his vice presidential pick by Saturday, two days before the start of the Democratic National Convention. But the Illinois senator bidding to become the United States' first black president has remained tight-lipped about his choice, as has rival McCain.
The selection this year is seen as more important than in previous years, with Obama a relative novice on the national political scene and McCain potentially becoming the oldest man to assume the presidency, at 72.
Obama's campaign staff in his hometown of Chicago, and party activists who are waiting for a decision, are buzzing about Biden largely because he can address two of Obama's biggest weakness _ his lack of world affairs experience and his reluctance to go on the attack in the face of stiff Republican offensive.
Biden, 65, who represents Delaware, is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which he has served on for 33 years.
McCain, who hails from Arizona, brings a military background and leadership on the Senate Armed Services Committee. And he has pointedly _ and repeatedly _ picked at his Democratic opponent's foreign policy and national security credentials. Obama, who is 47, has served in Washington just three years.
Both candidates have sharpened their rhetoric in recent days. McCain chided Obama on Wednesday for getting "a little testy" over criticism of his inexperience.
Obama, meanwhile, stepped up his hard-edged ad campaign Wednesday, launching tough commercials against his Republican rival.
One ad, aimed at the most competitive states, criticizes McCain's economic policies as a boon to corporations. Trying anew to tie McCain to the unpopular President George W. Bush, the commercial asks: "Can we really afford more of the same?"
McCain has been running stinging ads against Obama, including a buzz-generating spot that compared Obama's celebrity to that of Britney Spears and Paris Hilton.
McCain's camp continued the theme Wednesday with a radio ad on Obama's spending plans. "Celebrities like to spend their millions," says the ad. "Barack Obama is no different. Only it's your money he wants to spend."
At an appearance on Wednesday in New Mexico, McCain told voters he is not challenging Obama's patriotism in criticizing his call to pull out of Iraq, only the judgment of his Democratic rival.
"He's making these decisions not because he doesn't love America, but because he doesn't think it matters whether America wins or loses," McCain said.
McCain repeated his charge that Obama would rather forfeit than win in Iraq just to boost his own political ambitions.
Obama has denounced that assertion as an assault on his patriotism.
McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds responded, "Barack Obama's own campaign is the only one talking about his patriotism."
Obama, meanwhile, tried to refocus his campaign on the economy _ a big issue with voters as gas prices soar, home prices drop and the job market weakens.
At a visit to a community college in Martinsville, Virginia, Obama told about 350 supporters that he pledged to create millions of union jobs in alternative energy and to end tax breaks for companies that move jobs overseas.
Obama said it was wrong that the Iraqi government has been sitting on billions of dollars in oil revenue while the U.S. spends billions to rebuild the war-torn country.
"We should be using some of that money to rebuild Virginia, laying roads, building broadband lines and putting people back to work," Obama said.
As for tax breaks to companies taking jobs overseas, Obama said: "We sure as heck don't have to give them incentives to move. ... We should give companies tax breaks that are right here."
In addition to Biden, Obama is believed to be considering Govs. Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas or Tim Kaine of Virginia or Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana.
Those believed to be on Obama's short list for vice president have stayed mum. 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.
McCain was considering a vice presidential announcement right after next week's Democratic convention ends on Aug. 28, gunning to diminish Obama's post-convention glow as party delegates leave Denver, Colorado. McCain has a three-day window before his Republicans assemble Sept. 1 in St. Paul, Minnesota.
McCain, too, is wrestling with a vice presidential choice. The Vietnam veteran's top contenders for the vice presidency are said to include Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. Less traditional 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.
Also Wednesday, McCain's campaign reported that it raised more than $26 million in funds in July and spent $32 million last month.
Obama's campaign had not yet filed its July report, but the organization announced last weekend that he had raised more than $51 million in July.
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Associated Press Writers Nedra Pickler, Liz Sidoti, Beth Fouhy and Philip Elliott contributed to this story.