Gore Guessing Games

Mum's the word from Al Gore's camp as the Democratic presidential candidate settles on a running mate.

"I have not decided yet - but I will, and shortly," Gore told a Democratic Party fund-raising audience in Southampton, N.Y. on Sunday.

On Tuesday, Gore is set to announce his vice presidential pick in Nashville. Four senators among those reportedly high on Gore's short list of possible VP contenders: John Edwards of North Carolina, John Kerry of Massachusetts, Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, and Evan Bayh of Indiana. While weekend speculation bubbled to a predictable frenzy over Gore's likely choice, he and his campaign refused to bite.

"I'd love to commit news, but I don't know," Gore campaign adviser Bob Shrum told CBS News' Face The Nation on Sunday.

I couldn't tell you if I did know," he added. "I don't think the decision is made yet."

Not even a hint?

"People who know something aren't talking about it. People who are talking about it, I think don't know anything," said Shrum.

Once again, the Gore campaign adviser rattled off the vice president's criteria for a running mate: "someone who can be president, someone who is going to fight for the people, not the powerful, someone who is talented and go out there and do the job."

Also on Face The Nation, George W. Bush's campaign took aim at some of the possible Gore picks.

Karen Hughes, Bush's communications director, said the Republican presidential candidate effectively put Gore in a box by choosing former Defense Secretary Dick Cheney as his running mate.

I think the Democrats are going to have trouble," said Hughes. "Senator Edwards has nowhere near the experience or the stature that a Dick Cheney does. I think the same is true for other candidates being considered."

What about Sen. Kerry, who - like Al Gore - fought in Vietnam while neither Bush nor Cheney served in that war?

"I think that on our ticket there are two people committed to rebuilding America's military. That's what the American people want to see ..." Hughes replied. "The American people aren't going to look backwards when they look for a president. They'll look forward."

As for Sen. Lieberman, his religion surfaced as a potential issue over the weekend.

"Joe Lieberman would be a bold and courageous choice" for Gore's running mate, said Democratic Party general chairman Ed Rendell on Saturday. While Rendell called the Connecticut Democrat "maybe the finest person in politics," he also acknowledged concerns about a possible voter backlash against the senator because of his Orthodox Jewish faith.

"I don't think anyone can calculate the effect of having a Jew on the ticket," said Rendell. "If Joe Lieberman were Episcopalian, it would be a slam dunk" for Gore to choose him.

Asked if Lieberman's faith was enough of a concern not to pick him, endell - who's Jewish himself - shrugged and said, "I'm not sure that the people who would vote against us because Joe is Jewish aren't going to vote against us any way."

On Sunday, Gore was asked if Lieberman would face prejudice from some voters if he were the Democrat's VP choice.

"I don't think those old distinctions and categories matter these days, the way they did in the past," Gore told ABC.

Speaking outside his home Saturday night, Lieberman said he doesn't think Gore will be affected one way or another by the fact that he's Jewish.

"I have confidence in his fairness and tolerance," Lieberman said. "He's a totally unbiased person."

Lieberman added he doesn't believe his religion would be a liability in the election.

"We're in an open and tolerant time in our country's history," he said.

Last but not least, Pat Buchanan, refuting reports of his own demise, said Sunday he is sure to win the Reform Party nomination and declared the fractured third party will die if he doesn't gain the nod.

"If I don't get this nomination, it is pretty much the end of the Reform Party," Buchanan said on Face the Nation. He heads to the party's nominating convention in Long Beach, Calif. this week without a running mate - or the assurance that he will survive an attempt to throw him off the ballot.

National polls currently give Buchanan would between one and three percent of the vote in a four-way race between Bush, Gore, Green Party candidate Ralph Nader, and himself. On Sunday, the former Republican acknowledged that low percentage could cause him problems in drawing a running mate and could hurt his chances to win a spot in this fall's presidential TV debates.