May 22, 2008
(AP) - Likely Democratic nominee Barack Obama has
begun a top-secret search for a running mate, fresh signs that the
general election campaign is well under way and the primary race
against Hillary Rodham Clinton is basically over.
Obama has asked former Fannie Mae CEO Jim Johnson to begin
vetting potential vice presidential picks, Democratic officials
said Thursday. Johnson did the same job for Democratic nominees
John Kerry in 2004 and Walter Mondale in 1984.
Obama refused to acknowledge Johnson's role when The Associated
Press asked the Illinois senator about it in the Capitol Thursday.
"I haven't hired him. He's not on retainer. I'm not paying him
any money. He is a friend of mine. I know him," Obama said. "I am
not commenting on vice presidential matters because I have not won
The Democratic officials spoke on a condition of anonymity about
a process that the campaign wants to keep quiet.
Vice presidential searches are usually closely held secrets, but
Obama campaign officials say the effort is being handled by a
particularly tight circle of advisers.
The campaign did not want to discuss the effort because they are
still engaged in a fading primary campaign against Hillary Rodham
Clinton, with three primaries left in Puerto Rico, South Dakota and
Montana. The voting ends June 3. Obama has repeatedly declined to
discuss possible running mates while the primary is ongoing.
"We're not commenting about this process," said Obama
spokesman Bill Burton.
But they are taking behind-the-scenes steps to move toward the
general election campaign, with just 61 delegates needed to clinch
the nomination according to the latest Associated Press count.
Obama has 1,965 delegates to Clinton's 1,780, with 2,026 required
to secure the party's nod under Democratic National Committee
The Obama campaign is rapidly adding to its campaign staff, both
at the headquarters and in general election swing states. Obama has
been traveling to some of those battlegrounds - Missouri, Michigan,
Iowa and Florida in the last nine days - while the campaign is
registering voters across the country for the November vote. And
top Obama organizer Paul Tewes is in discussions to take over the
Democratic National Committee.
It's all part of an effort to lay the groundwork for an
aggressive kickoff to a general election campaign. Republican John
McCain has a head start and has been building his effort for
several months since the GOP primary race wrapped up in early
McCain is hosting at least three Republicans mentioned as
potential vice presidential running mates at his Sedona, Ariz.,
home this weekend - Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, Louisiana Gov.
Bobby Jindal and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. A top aide
said it's a social event with more than two dozen guests not meant
for veep vetting.
Obama's campaign refused to talk about who was being considered,
but some in the party are calling for him to pick Clinton. Clinton
spokesman Howard Wolfson said Thursday, "There have been no
discussions with the Obama campaign about Senator Clinton being the
Other possible options are governors such as Arizona's Janet
Napolitano, Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas and Tim Kaine of Virginia;
foreign policy experts like former Georgia Sen. Sam Nunn,
Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd or Delaware Sen. Joe Biden; or other
senators such as Missouri's Claire McCaskill and Virginia's Jim
He could look outside the party to people such as war critic and
Nebraska Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel or independent New York mayor
Mike Bloomberg. Or he could look to one of his early prominent
supporters such as former Sen. Tom Daschle of South Dakota or 2004
vice presidential nominee John Edwards. Or he could try to bring on
a Clinton supporter like Indiana's Evan Bayh.
Johnson's role running the veep process was first reported on