Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama prepared to name his running mate, perhaps as early as Friday, from a small field that included at least one surprise finalist.
Democratic officials said little-known Texas Rep. Chet Edwards was one of the few Democrats whose background was checked by Obama's campaign and he was a finalist for the job. Other contenders who have already been mentioned include Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius and Sens. Joe Biden of Delaware and Evan Bayh of Indiana.
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's supporters have pushed for Obama to consider his defeated primary rival as his vice presidential pick, but her prospects remained hazy. Senior aides said the Obama campaign never requested financial or other records from her.
Obama was expected to text message his choice later on Friday or Saturday. He is scheduled to appear with his No. 2 Saturday at a massive rally in his home state of Illinois and undertake a tour of battleground states before the Democratic National Convention starts Monday in Denver.
Obama has been tight-lipped. "I've made the selection, that's all you're gonna get," Obama told reporters while campaigning in Virginia on Thursday.
Meanwhile, the Democrat heaped new criticism on his Republican rival John McCain in a push to blunt attacks that have narrowed his lead in the polls. Obama on Thursday chided McCain for an interview in which he said he did not know how many homes he owns, and he branded the Republican as rich, out-of-touch with voters and touting inflated foreign policy credentials.
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.
The Arizona Republican is expected to announce his choice between next week's Democratic convention and his own Republican convention in St. Paul, Minnesota, that begins Sept. 1. It's possible he could do it on Friday, Aug. 29, the day he turns 72 and the day after Obama accepts his own nomination in Denver. But no plans are set and McCain might wait until his own convention week.
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 who McCain deeply admires, such as Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq.
The need for a careful selection for the vice presidency for both candidates 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 criticized McCain for not being able to answer a question about how many homes he owns during an interview. 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.
Associated Press writer Liz Sidoti contributed to this report from Washington.