LYNCHBURG, Va. | Sen. Barack Obama offered “no hints” about his choice of running mate Wednesday, but campaigned hard through Virginia with two former contenders to prove he will compete in the state.
The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee is expected to announce his pick for No. 2 within the next few days, and Gov. Tim Kaine remains a strong contender. The two will campaign together Thursday.
Mr. Obama spent much of Wednesday with former Gov. Mark Warner, who took himself out of the running months ago, and Sen. Jim Webb, who said this summer that he wouldn’t want the vice-presidential job.
The two Democrats offered their hearty endorsements for the senator from Illinois, who will formally accept the party nomination next week in Denver.
Pressed by reporters eager for a decision that will be telegraphed first to supporters via text message, Mr. Obama demurred. “No hints,” he said. “No new hints.”
But Mr. Obama praised Mr. Kaine in front of 350 people invited by the campaign and local businesses to see the Warner-Obama town-hall meeting at the Patrick Henry Community College Motorsports Facility.
“As governor, Mark Warner never forgot us; as president, Barack Obama won’t either,” said Brian McGhee, a laid-off worker who introduced the two men in Martinsville.
The former governor - still popular in the economically depressed Southside region for his record of bringing new jobs - introduced Mr. Obama to many of his “friends,” mostly local representatives, at Short Sugar’s BBQ in Danville, where he ordered sandwiches and 2 pounds of pork ribs. He also picked up the tab for two other Short Sugar patrons.
As for the No. 2 spot on the Obama ticket, Mr. Warner said of Mr. Kaine that “I think he’d be a great choice,” because of his “judgment and 20 years of experience in public life at the local level and now as governor.”
He quickly added: “I think he may be the only one who knows; I don’t know.”
At a later event here, Mr. Webb introduced his Senate colleague as “the future president” and alluded to the state’s battleground label.
“We need a new future,” he said. “Virginia may be the key to deciding this race.” His next words were drowned out by sustained thunderous applause.
The Lynchburg high school gym was packed, and not everyone in the long line stretching from the building was able to get inside.
“We wanted to get in everyone but the fire marshal has to do his job,” Mr. Obama told about 200 stuck outside in event overflow.
Mr. Webb said Mr. Obama had demonstrated “unshakable composure” and will make the nation better for working people.
“It’s time for change, folks,” Mr. Webb said after rattling off the income inequality and fairness lines that comprised his own stump speech in 2006. “He understands the problems that we face. He is ready to lead.”
An opening prayer was held before each Virginia event, and Mr. Warner introduced Mr. Obama as “a man of deep faith.”
“Faith in God, faith in recognizing that every community has got to get a fair shot,” Mr. Warner said.
Mr. Warner also said that he and Mr. Obama share a vision for the country that is beyond partisanship - and understand that politics is not about red versus blue, but instead “future versus past.”
It’s a theme he likely will repeat next week when delivering the Tuesday keynote speech at the convention, the same slot Mr. Obama held when he was introduced to the nation in 2004.
In Southside Virginia, Mr. Obama also toured a workshop that builds NASCAR race engines and conducts research and development for Dodge.
He began the day greeting voters at a farmers market in Greensboro, N.C., and insisted that the state is a battleground this year despite its record of voting for Republican presidential candidates for the past 10 elections.
“I think I wouldn’t be here if I couldn’t win it,” he said.
Mr. Obama is expected to appear Saturday with his running mate in Springfield, Ill., where he announced his candidacy in February 2007.