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ABC calls Biden the Clear Frontrunner for Veep

updated 1 hour, 48 minutes ago

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Within the last few hours I’ve spoken with two of the finalists for the role of Barack Obama’s running-mate, and to two other sources who are close to the process.

My bottom line is this: Barring a big surprise or last-minute change of heart, the choice is likely to be Sen. Joe Biden of Deleware, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee.

He is a lively and feisty if unpredictable campaigner with working-class roots and a street-level feel for the hot spots of the globe — which he can use to go toe-to-toe with Sen. John McCain.

“If I had to bet my life on it, I’d bet it is Joe,” said one of the other contenders.

Said another, “Barack is moving toward a seasoned Beltway type, and that probably means Biden.”

And a source personally close to Obama simply said “Biden makes the most sense.”

Besides his experience, Biden brings other things to the table.

He is from a modest Catholic background in Scranton, Pa. He represents Delaware, but has long been a figure in Eastern Pennsylvania — a key swing state.

And he is a voluble and combative character, even with his ready smile.

“Joe won’t be afraid to get in McCain’s face, which is what Obama needs,” said one non-contender source.

Others have pointed out to Obama that this is why Biden would be hard to control as vice president.

But maybe Obama has decided to worry about that later.

Biden’s personal story is compelling. He lost his first wife in an auto accident and is devoted to his second, Jill — a lifelong teacher.

Biden has largely escaped any hint of scandal, personal or political, in a long career, even though he was forced to withdraw from the Democratic race in 1988 amid charges of plaigiarism.

Those charges now seem sadly trivial given all that’s happened since.

Another name on Obama’s short list is Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana.

But unlike Biden, Bayh is known for his mild demeanor. In addition to his lack of evident fire, Bayh has another handicap — ongoing questions about his wife’s business dealings. Also in the running is Virginia govenor Tom Kaine. But he may fall short because of his lack of foreign policy experience.

Also vetted of course were Sen. Hillary Clinton and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson.

And who is the dark, dark horse in this Veepstakes? I think it is former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle.

But the spotlight keeps moving back to Biden.

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Biden Stock up on the Political Market

STOCK CURRENT VALUE TODAY
Joe Biden $45.49 $21.89
Kathleen Sebelius $25.16 $-3.10
Evan Bayh $10.27 $-3.81
Hillary Clinton $7.56 $2.63
Tim Kaine $5.57 $3.85
Bill Richardson $2.23 $-6.11
Sam Nunn $1.16 $1.16
Wesley Clark $0.91 $-0.09
Al Gore $0.63 $-11.51
Other $0.63 $-2.08
Chuck Hagel $0.12 $0.11
Chet Edwards $0.09 $0.09
Tom Daschle $0.04 $-2.87
Jim Webb $0.03 $-0.01
Michael Bloomberg $0.01 $0.01
Jack Reed $0.01 $-0.16
William Cohen $0.00 unchanged
Chris Dodd $0.00 unchanged
John Edwards $0.00 unchanged
Lee Hamilton $0.00 unchanged
Claire McCaskill $0.00 unchanged
Janet Napolitano $0.00 unchanged
Bill Nelson $0.00 unchanged
Colin Powell $0.00 unchanged
Ed Rendell $0.00 unchanged
Timothy Roemer $0.00 unchanged

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Barack Obama Ready to Announce Running Mate

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WASHINGTON: Senator Barack Obama has all but settled on his choice for a running mate and set an elaborate rollout plan for his decision, beginning with an early morning alert to

supporters, perhaps as soon as Wednesday morning, aides said.

Obama’s deliberations remain remarkably closely held. Aides said perhaps a half-dozen advisers were involved in the final discussions in an effort to enforce a command that Obama issued to staff members: that his decision not leak out until supporters are notified.

Obama had not notified his choice — or any of those not selected — of his decision as of late Monday, advisers said. Going into the final days, Obama was said to be focused mainly on three candidates: Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana, Governor Tim Kaine of Virginia and Senator Joseph Biden Jr. of Delaware.

Some Democrats said they still hoped that he would choose Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, or Governor Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas, who has been under steady consideration by Obama’s campaign.

By all indications, Obama is likely to choose someone relatively safe and avoid taking a chance with a game-changing selection. A similar strategic choice now faces Obama’s Republican rival, Senator John McCain of Arizona, who has been under pressure from some Republicans to make a more daring choice.

Obama’s advisers said he all but reached his decision while on vacation in Hawaii. They said it was the end of what proved to be an unexpectedly intense process, condensed because he did not want to start actively vetting potential running mates before Clinton quit the race in June.

By contrast, McCain, who had wrapped up the Republican nomination months earlier, began his process in late spring.

That gave Obama’s team of lawyers less time to review candidates, and several Democrats said it appeared that the list of candidates who were deeply vetted was limited to about a half-dozen people. (Campaigns typically check the background of candidates who are not necessarily in play, as a way of gaining favor with various constituencies or to keep the other party off balance.)

The team of advance workers and aides involved in planning the rollout — timed to galvanize Democratic voters as Obama heads to Denver next week for the party convention — have not been told who Obama will be selecting.

If all goes according to plan, the announcement will be made with text and e-mail messages to supporters early in the morning, in time to capture coverage on the morning news shows and take advantage of a full day’s news cycle.

Obama and his running mate will begin, perhaps that day, a visit to swing states. Plans call for them to be on the trail together for much of the time between the day of the announcement and the day Obama arrives in Denver, a week from Wednesday, but their most intense campaigning together will come after the convention.

Obama’s schedule calls for him to awaken on Tuesday in Orlando, Florida, and by the end of the day be in Raleigh, North Carolina. By Wednesday, he is scheduled to be in Virginia. The Obama campaign has cautioned against reading anything into his schedule, saying it could be changed in an instant to accommodate the plan to introduce the running mate.

Aides said the announcement would come at the earliest on Wednesday morning.

Obama’s advisers said they wanted to time the announcement to get maximum publicity going into the convention, after a stretch in which Obama was on vacation in Hawaii and McCain made good use of having the political stage largely to himself. Vice-presidential announcements are one of a handful of moments when the presidential candidates are given a clear grab at the public spotlight, and both Obama and McCain have put much thought into the timing of their announcements.

If Obama is looking to build excitement going into the convention, McCain’s aides have looked to announcing his choice right after the Democratic convention, which ends Aug. 28, a Thursday, as a way of stepping on whatever bounce Obama enjoys from his nomination.

The Republican convention begins the following Monday.

Democrats close to the process said the ability to turn up information on the Web had made it easier for Obama’s search team — Caroline Kennedy and Eric Holder, a former deputy attorney general — to plumb the backgrounds of prospective running mates with relatively little notice. In addition, because so many of the candidates were senators, they were required to file annual financial disclosure reports.

Holder and Kennedy have been working largely out of Holder’s law firm in Washington, using lawyers in his firm and others — many of whom are veterans of the process from having worked for Senator John Kerry in 2004 and Al Gore in 2000 — to check the backgrounds of the potential candidates.

Obama was briefed frequently throughout the proceedings — receiving updates by telephone and e-mail — and came to Washington for a handful of meetings with a small group of senior advisers in the law offices of Covington & Burling, where Holder is a partner. With the vetting concluded, there was no activity on Monday in the firm’s suite of offices on Pennsylvania Avenue.

Unlike in previous selections, Obama has been largely spared the obligation of staging elaborate cloak-and-dagger processes to interview prospective running mates because he has been campaigning with them in close quarters, giving him a chance to get to know them.

The rampant speculation during the selection process encompassed many of the best-known names in the party, including Kerry and Gore, Senator Christopher Dodd of Connecticut, Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island, Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico and former Senator Sam Nunn of Georgia.

The big choice for Obama, advisers said, was the extent to which he needed to choose someone who would fill perceived holes in his résumé — lack of experience, particularly in foreign policy — versus a candidate who would reinforce his promise of change or one who might help him win a contested state.

Biden, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, clearly fell into the category of helping Obama on foreign policy, while Kaine is a relative newcomer to national politics and would reinforce the notion of change. Both Kaine and Bayh would help Obama in a state that Democrats are trying to put in play.

For all the attention to Obama’s deliberations, it is by no means assured that his choice will make a big difference in the outcome of the campaign.

“Vice-presidential candidates can make a marginal difference,” said Matt Bennett, the co-director of Third Way, a Democratic advocacy group, “but they rarely matter in terms of winning a state or region — as Mike Dukakis and John Kerry found out. And a weak candidate doesn’t really drag the ticket into the drink — as George H. W. Bush found out.”

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