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Kaine Won’t Discuss Possible Vice Presidential Nomination

July 29, 2008

By Warren Fiske, The Virginian-Pilot, Norfolk, Va.

Jul. 29–RICHMOND — Gov. Timothy M. Kaine this morning refused to discuss growing reports that Barack Obama may be on the verge of asking him to run for vice president this fall.

“I don’t talk about my conversations with the campaign,” Kaine said during a interview on his monthly appearance on WTOP radio in Washington.

Kaine repeatedly declined to promise he would serve out his term as governor, which expires in January 2010. He also would not say whether he has forwarded personal materials, such as his tax returns, to the Obama campaign for vetting.

The governor was asked whether it is essential for Obama, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, to choose a vice president who served in the military and is experienced in international affairs — two items missing from Kaine’s resume.

“The Obama campaign has been very, very good and they’ve made a lot of good choices,” Kaine said. “I’m not going to presume to tell them what to do.”

The Washington Post reported today that Kaine has told close associates that he has had “very serious” conversations with Obama about joining the Democratic presidential ticket and has provided documents to the campaign as it combs through his background, according to several sources close to Kaine.

Sens. Evan Bayh of Indiana and Joe Biden of Delaware are also being seriously vetted by the campaign staff, according to sources with knowledge of the process.

Obama has revealed little about which way he is leaning. Despite rising anticipation that a decision is imminent, campaign officials said an announcement is likely in mid-August, shortly before the Democratic National Convention.

Obama’s top aides, David Plouffe and David Axelrod, huddled Monday in the Washington office of Eric Holder, who along with Caroline Kennedy is vetting potential vice presidential picks.

Although rumors have circulated about former military leaders and other nontraditional contenders, including Republicans, Obama’s circle of prospects is heavy on veteran senators with foreign policy experience. Kaine and Gov. Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas are the only state leaders believed to be under serious consideration, according to sources close to Obama.

Democrats who have discussed possible picks with Obama campaign officials and have knowledge of the vetting process said others being considered include Sen. Christopher Dodd of Connecticut, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, and former Sen. Sam Nunn of Georgia. Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., and Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., are mentioned as long shots.

Aides to Kaine declined to comment about the possibility that Obama might pick him, referring all questions to the senator’s campaign.

“The governor has been pretty clear from the beginning, when Sen. Obama asked him to be a national co-chair, that any conversation he has with the campaign, on any topic, are conversations that he is keeping private,” said Delacey Skinner, Kaine’s communications director.

Several people who have spoken to Kaine said he has talked about the seriousness of the possibility. All requested anonymity, citing the campaign’s desire to keep the process secret. One said Kaine stressed that there are other top candidates but described his discussions with Obama’s campaign as “very serious.”

Two other associates said Kaine’s staff is providing the background research needed to allow Obama’s campaign to search for potential political land mines. One source said Kaine chief counsel Larry Roberts is coordinating with Obama’s team.

Since campaigning together during Kaine’s 2005 gubernatorial race, he and Obama have become friends. Kaine, who like Obama has Kansas roots, campaigned across the country for the Illinois senator during the primaries. In recent weeks, Kaine and his staff have been in frequent contact with Obama and his campaign about strategy and operations in Virginia and elsewhere.

Kaine has said he plans to attend the Democratic convention in Denver with his wife and children.

Picking Kaine would seem to satisfy many considerations Obama has laid out. During an interview with Tom Brokaw on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday, Obama said he would look for someone who shares his desire to change Washington politics.

Kaine, a governor and former Richmond mayor, would bring outside-the-Beltway credentials to the campaign. The relationship the two share would seem to fit with Obama’s desire for someone “with independence — who’s willing to tell me where he thinks, or she thinks, I’m wrong.” And Kaine would likely bolster Obama in Virginia, where the campaign is making an all-out push.

Kaine has no foreign policy background, and as a first-term governor, he might add to voters’ concerns about Obama’s lack of experience. Kaine remains popular in Virginia, but he has had trouble dealing with Republicans and has no single defining achievement to point to on the campaign trail.

As a decision approaches, speculation about Obama’s choices has intensified.

On “Fox News Sunday,” The Weekly Standard’s William Kristol said he thought Obama has already settled on Kaine.

Obama is “in Washington on Tuesday, two days from now. He’ll have a secret meeting with Tim Kaine — this is my theory — they’ll work it all out,” Kristol said. “And then on Monday, next Monday, Aug. 4, 11 a.m. in Richmond, Obama and Tim Kaine, and that will be an attractive young ticket…. I’m way out there on a limb here.”

The Washington Post contributed to this report.

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Copyright (c) 2008, The Virginian-Pilot, Norfolk, Va.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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