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Speculation on Biden as Obama vp choice

Speculation on Biden as Obama vp choice

With Barack Obama expected to announce his vice presidential pick by Saturday, speculation that Joe Biden _ the Senate's top Democratic foreign policy expert _ will be his nominee highlights fears that the presidential candidate's inexperience in world affairs compared to Republican John McCain could be costing him in the polls.
Obama, a relative newcomer on the national political scene, made history by becoming the first black candidate to lead a major U.S. political party's presidential ticket. But he has endured a hammering by McCain, a veteran Arizona senator, combat pilot and former Vietnam prisoner of war, over what Republicans contend is his lack of national security experience and his calls for a 16-month withdrawal of U.S. combat forces from Iraq.
But the Illinois senator may have found a new, albeit unintended, boost from an unlikely corner as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her Iraqi counterpart, meeting in Baghdad, announced Thursday that the two countries agree that timetables should be set for a U.S. troop withdrawal.
With the Democratic National Convention opening Monday, Obama has remained quiet about his vice presidential pick. But he plans to appear with his running mate Saturday, after the pick is announced via text message to supporters.
He also is believed to be considering Govs. Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas and Tim Kaine of Virginia, and Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana.
The choice of Biden, who has served on the Senate's Foreign Relations committee for 33 years, could potentially blunt some of McCain's criticism about Obama's lack of experience. Biden is also adept at doing what Obama has appeared reluctant to do _ go on the attack against McCain.
Biden is staying uncharacteristically quiet in the face of growing attention. Dressed in a suit and sunglasses, Biden left his home by car Thursday morning in Wilmington, Delaware, with only a casual wave to the news media.
If Obama chooses the 65-year-old Biden, however, it could open the candidate to criticism. In his hard-fought primary battle for the nomination, he campaigned on a platform of change _ offering a relief for voters weary of old-school Washington politics. Biden, elected in 1972 to represent the state of Delaware, is hardly a political outsider.
It may be a gamble, but Obama is feeling the pressure. Polls show that McCain is catching up with his rival nationally.
As the Nov. 4 election approaches, the race has turned nastier.
Obama has sharpened his tone toward McCain as even Obama's supporters worried whether the candidate who campaigned on the themes of hope and change can be aggressive enough. McCain chided his Democratic rival on Wednesday for getting "a little testy."
"I honor his service. I don't honor his policies. I don't honor his politics," Obama said, taking on his Republican opponent with renewed vigor on a slew of issues, ranging from the economy to the Iraq war.
In that battle, Obama may have found a new argument boosting his platform of a rapid troop withdrawal.
In a joint news conference, Rice and Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said that a final agreement between Washington and Baghdad on a broad document spelling out the nature of any future U.S. troop presence and Washington-Baghdad relations is close to fruition, but not yet complete.
McCain has argued against such a timetable, blasting Obama's call for a withdrawal within 16 months as political opportunism aimed at getting himself elected at the cost of losing the war. But Bush has previously raised the idea of a clear timeline for withdrawal, albeit couching that in language attributing the move to the troop surge credited with curtailing violence in the Arab country.
A key part of the U.S.-Iraqi draft agreement envisions the withdrawal of American forces from Iraq's cities by June 30.
Both candidates also unveiled fresh attack advertisements ahead of their back-to-back national conventions.
Trying anew to tie McCain to the unpopular fellow Republican President George W. Bush, Obama's TV commercial asks: "Can we really afford more of the same?" It slams McCain's tax plan as a giveaway for big corporations and oil companies.
McCain's radio ad claims: "Celebrities like to spend their millions. Barack Obama is no different. Only it's your money he wants to spend."
Obama was confronted by concerns about his ability to fight back at a town hall meeting in Virginia Wednesday, when a woman told him McCain was running a lot of negative ads in the state.
"You think you can win by taking the higher ground? I worry about you," the woman said, but Obama insisted he was up for the fight.
Republicans, in turn, are emboldened by improving poll numbers: Even ardent critics of McCain's campaign see a way he could win although Bush's unpopularity remains a drag and war and economic distress have created a dreadful political environment for the Republican Party.
A CBS News-New York Times poll released Wednesday showed Obama was ahead of McCain by 45 percent to 42 percent. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points, meaning the two were in a statistical dead heat. Just two weeks ago, Obama led the race by 6 percentage points.
The Pew Research Center's latest survey found Obama at 46 percent and McCain at 43 percent, tighter than the 8-percentage-point gap just two months ago. The survey found that McCain has solidified his base support, particularly among whites, men, Republicans and evangelicals. Conversely, Obama has made few gains, but has retained his overwhelming advantage among blacks and younger voters, while also leading among women.
After struggling to find his footing, McCain has put Obama on defense over the past few weeks, with ads and speeches painting his rival as not up to the job of president. And, with Americans grumbling about high gasoline prices at a time of broader economic woes, McCain reversed himself to support offshore drilling amid high gas prices. That new message has helped unite dispirited Republicans.
More recently, McCain struck a hawkish stance during Georgia-Russia conflict in the hope of turning the campaign conversation to his strength _ national security. And, he delivered what was widely viewed as a strong performance last Saturday before an audience of evangelicals, a Republican core constituency he has struggled to energize.
Even so, he has found himself on the defensive at times in trying to shed his association with Bush _ a link Obama and the Democrats are making at every turn. A recent AP-Yahoo poll showed that six of 10 adults say McCain will follow Bush's policies.
In areas like these, Biden could help Obama. Biden returned this week from a trip to Georgia that he made at the invitation of the embattled country's president, Mikhail Saakashvili.