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Obama hints at VP, but won't divulge his choice

Democrat Barack Obama offered tantalizing hints about his vice presidential pick, describing the nominee as independent, ready to be president and strong on the economy. Even as he refused to disclose the name, he heaped new criticism on Republican rival John McCain in a push to blunt attacks that have narrowed his lead in the polls.
Obama branded the Republican as rich, out-of-touch with voters and touting inflated foreign policy credentials as the race to the Nov. 4 elections turned increasingly nasty.
Obama is scheduled to appear with his vice presidential nominee on Saturday in Springfield, Illinois, his home state and the city where he launched his candidacy, two days before the start of the Democratic National Convention in Denver.
While he has remained tight-lipped about his selection, the field of candidates appears to have been narrowed down to four: Govs. Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas and Tim Kaine of Virginia, Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana, and on Joe Biden _ the Senate's top Democratic foreign policy expert. An announcement is expected to be made in a text message to supporters sometime before the Saturday event.
"I've made the selection, that's all you're gonna get," Obama told reporters while campaigning in Virginia on Thursday.
He told the USA Today newspaper, however, that he went with someone who is independent and would challenge him in the White House. He also said he wanted someone who is prepared to be president and would help him strengthen the economy. But he declined to say whether he has informed his pick yet and said he would not reveal anything else about the decision until he announces it.
On the Republican side, party officials said late Thursday that McCain has not settled on a running mate, although former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty were under serious consideration. Two officials close to Romney said he had not been offered the job.
Democratic and Republican officials said both candidates were capable of making wild card picks that would surprise their backers.
Beyond idle curiosity, speculation surrounding Obama's choice reflects questions about how he will overcome a battering by McCain, who has repeatedly pointed to what he says is Obama's inexperience in national security and foreign policy matters as evidence that the 47-year-old candidate is ill-equipped to be president.
While McCain is a decorated combat pilot, a veteran senator and a former Vietnam prisoner of war, Obama is a relative newcomer to the national political scene. He made history by becoming the first black person to head a major U.S. political party's presidential ticket, surging forward in a primary battle against Hillary Rodham Clinton on a message of hope and change.
Expectations are that his selection for vice president would somehow reflect that. Over the past couple of days, that attention was directed at Biden _ a 33-year-member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee whose nomination could blunt some of McCain's criticism about Obama's international affairs experience.
But Biden, 65, although outspoken and not one to duck from attacks by Republicans, is not among those who Obama supporters would view as a Washington outsider. He has been in the Senate since 1972 _ when Obama was about 11 years old.
The Delaware senator is staying uncharacteristically quiet in the face of growing attention.
West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin said Thursday his friend Kaine thinks he is on the short list. Manchin said Kaine told him although he had not heard anything from the Obama campaign on where he stands at the time, "he really thinks he has a chance at the short straw."
However, Obama did not reveal his choice to Kaine even after they met Thursday, according to two people close to the Virginia governor. They spoke on a condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.
Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island, a national security expert who has been mentioned as a possible candidate, was at his home in Jamestown on Thursday. He said he was not Obama's choice and that he had not been asked for any background information.
The need for a careful selection for the vice presidency comes as McCain has largely erased Obama's lead in the polls.
To counter the perception that his campaign has stalled, Obama has stepped up his attacks even as some supporters worry that someone who campaigned on themes of hope and change can be aggressive enough.
After being introduced Thursday at a rally in Richmond, Virginia, by Kaine, Obama chided McCain for an interview in which he said he did not know how many homes he owns. McCain's wife, Cindy, is an heiress to a large beer distributorship and her wealth is estimated to be at least $100 million.
"If you're like me, and you've got one house, or you are like the millions of people who are struggling right now to keep up with their mortgage so they don't lose their home, you might have a different perspective," Obama said.
Obama also struck a defensive tone, saying that despite his limited experience on the national stage, he has shown better judgment on foreign affairs than McCain has.
"I will put my judgment on foreign policy over the last five years against John McCain's anytime. Anytime," Obama said.
McCain has derided Obama's call for a withdrawal timetable as political opportunism aimed at getting himself elected at the cost of losing the war.
But an announcement Thursday in Baghdad by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her Iraqi counterpart that the two countries were close to an agreement on withdrawing U.S. combat forces from Iraq cities by next June _ on the way to broader withdrawal by 2011 _ could offer Obama an inadvertent boost and leave McCain as the most bellicose supporter of no timeline for a pullout.
President George W. Bush had long opposed timetables. But more recently, he has called for a "general time horizon" for ending the U.S. mission.
Both candidates have unveiled fresh attack advertisements ahead of their back-to-back national conventions.
On Thursday, a conservative nonprofit group with a past link to McCain's presidential campaign said it is spending $2.8 million on an ad questioning Obama's relationship to a founder of the 1960s radical group Weather Underground.
The ad, which is expected to begin airing Thursday in Michigan and Friday in Ohio, focuses on William Ayers, whose Weatherman organization took credit for a series of bombings, including nonfatal explosions at the Pentagon and U.S. Capitol 40 years ago.
Obama has distanced himself from the radical activity of the Weather Underground. In an interview with "Fox News Sunday" in April, Obama said he "deplored" Ayers action in the 1960s.
Obama's campaign accused McCain of having a hand in the ad, saying he "dispatched his paid consultant to launch this despicable ad from a so-called 'independent' committee."
Associated Press writers Bob Lewis, Beth Fouhy and Nedra Pickler contributed to this story.

Updated : 2021-06-23 07:52 GMT+08:00