The Washington Times - August 22, 2008, 12:23AM

I’ve mostly avoided running mate speculation and as I noted here earlier this week, Team Obama is actually adept at keeping secrets.



Given that, here’s where I think it stands in the hours before we actually know his choice: Obama has made his VP decision using what he knows, what he can guess and what’s in his gut.


So why not use the same strategy to outline my theory.


What I know: Obama told reporters he has made his pick. Obama just got to his Chicago home and will stay there with nothing public advised for tomorrow (yet). He will appear with the person Saturday in Springfield.


Gov. Tim Kaine did not look happy today at the event in the Richmond suburbs, and Obama strangely did not offer any praise for his longtime pal. But the Associated Press reports tonight Kaine was not aware of the Obama decision yet, so maybe he was just feeling anxious.


What my reporting has gathered: The text message will come Friday morning when Obama is home in Chicago and the press corps has been dumped off to hang out for a down day before the big Springfield event. It gives him a day to prepare privately out of the view of the press.


What I can guess: The press has gotten itself in a tizzy for a month following Obama around the country (and the world) with potential candidates.


There were Jack Reed and Chuck Hagel overseas. The big Evan Bayh event before he went on vacation.


And since Monday, he has campaigned with Bill Richardson in New Mexico, Mark Warner, Jim Webb and Kaine in Virginia.


My guess after careful observation and learning that he did some sort of filming with most of these folks this week is that these weren’t tryouts, they were events to showcase each person’s popularity in swing states. If they help him by campaigning with him, he doesn’t need to choose them for VP.


One person he hasn’t campaigned with – Joe Biden. Which would reinforce the secretive thing.


Biden knows how to work with people. He’s cooperated civilly with his ranking Republican when chairman of two major committees, and as ranking Democrat with Republican chairmen.


Oh and one of those Republicans is Sen. Dick Lugar, who has had surprisingly nice things to say about Obama in regards to their work on nuclear proliferation and doesn’t seem to mind starring in an Obama ad. (Some are floating Lugar for VP, but I think that’s a real long shot.)


We talk about all the advisers to so-and-so that now work in Chicago. But David Wilhelm, a former top Biden aide, became an early Obama backer after his candidate dropped out.

In an interview earlier this summer, Biden told me what his philosophy would be if Obama asked him for vetting papers:

But Mr. Biden added a big caveat, saying instead of being “considered” he would want a “direct discussion face to face with the nominee” to ask, “Am I likely to be picked” if I “pass all those tests in terms of my not having skeletons.”

“If you can’t look me in the eye and tell me that then … don’t put me through the audition,” he said.

But if that offer is made, “You’d have to say yes. I don’t know how the hell you’d say no at this historic moment.”

I can’t find any solid reporting that Biden has actually been vetted.


Which can mean one of three things:


1) He wasn’t vetted and won’t be picked.

2) He wasn’t vetted in the same way as newcomers because he’s been around so long.

3) He was vetted but kept it quiet. Which would carry a lot of weight with secretive Team Obama (see above.)



Also a clue, Biden, running for reelection, has a newish-looking landing page on his Web site. He’s also added some new networking campaign tools.



Interesting …

But of course I can poke a hole in my own theory, because I’ve long said that Obama doesn’t look at his candidacy through a pundit’s lens. Talking heads will say the pick either reinforces a strength or shores up a weakness, blah blah.


But Obama’s entire candidacy was staked on the idea that HE is ready now. That HE had the JUDGMENT that trumped the Clinton-quasi-incumbent claim of EXPERIENCE. Whether or not that’s true, the voters believed him and that’s why he is the nominee, the guy of ‘change.’


A Biden pick may signal Obama worries he needs more foreign policy know-how on the ticket, plus Biden voted for the Iraq war. On the flip side, his plan for Iraq passed the Senate. Obama talked recently about the foreign policy stance he’d want his running mate to carry. It also will give Republicans fodder to say the No. 2 has more experience than the No. 1.


But is that a bad thing?

What my gut tells me: Biden (or a total shocker that isn’t Hillary Clinton).


I spent a lot of time with Biden in the senate and in Iowa, and he’s good on the stump. Voters feel like he’s telling the truth, they like what they call frankness but what pundits say is nothing more than loose lips and a potential problem.


He’s excellent in debates. He was often more memorable than the frontrunners - not for being an attack dog but for knowing what he was talking about and having great punch lines.


But he has drawbacks, many of which are on video. His 1988 presidential bid ended badly when, in one instance, he failed to cite a British politician he had been quoting on the campaign trail. (Imagine the attack ads from the GOP - the Biden split screen with Neil Kinnock and then add in the video of Obama using Deval Patrick’s lines.)


Biden also likes to cuss. (Obama said back in Iowa he sometimes like the “juicy” curse words himself.)


Biden has had a front seat to history. He knows what it’s like to come from a working-class family. His wife is a teacher. His sons are handsome, involved in government and by the way, one of them is about to be deployed to Iraq.


The Delaware senator told reporters camped out at his home this week he’s not the guy. But I’m fairly certain that as of this writing, Obama hasn’t told “the guy” yet.


(Tease question: Where has Tim Roemer been?)


Okay, done musing. The VEEP obsession slowed my blogging down, so below is a little sample of the last two days on the trail in Virginia.


Obama enjoyed a rowdy crowd Wednesday night in Lynchburg, where he took a more aggressive tone against the Republicans and Sen. John McCain.


He also pushed back on the viral email smears questioning his faith, saying in a new twist that they are designed to fuel anti-Muslim sentiment.


Here is some video:



Obama had a nice reception earlier Wednesday in Martinsville as well. The Southside, Virginia stop focused mostly on the economy.


Here is some (low-quality) video of former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner introducing Obama at the event, calling him a man of deep faith.



I had a piece in Wednesday’s paper from the campaign trail in Virginia. Read it here.


Here is my story from the event today outside of Richmond, and you can also check out Astrid Riecken’s photos from the trail today here.


Christina Bellantoni, national political reporter,
The Washington Times


Bookmark my blog at

Find my latest stories here and visit my YouTube page.