Starting Gate: Pins And Needles

Alarm bells went off all over political world yesterday afternoon when the Drudge Report trumpeted an upcoming New York Times story suggesting that Barack Obama had decided on his vice presidential running mate and might announce it as early as this morning.

It turned out to be a false alarm of sorts. What the Times actually reports this morning is that Obama has "all but settled on" his choice, which could be announced as early as tomorrow morning. That all pretty much jibes with what most have suspected since Obama returned from vacation with just a week to go until his nominating convention kicks off.

Various other reporting today suggests that the pick may not be announced until Friday or even Saturday. Just to cover all the bases, why not throw Thursday in the mix? Everyone knows it's coming soon, so where is the "buzz" headed?

While Virginia Governor Tim Kaine and Indiana Senator Evan Bayh remain by all accounts at the very top of any short lists, Delaware Senator Joe Biden has been rocketing up the speculation ladder over the past several days. Events in Georgia and Pakistan have suddenly put foreign policy expertise at a premium for a candidate who's a first-term senator. If it's an elder statesman type that Obama is looking for, Biden looks like a strong contender.

But for all those strengths, Biden has been in the United States Senate for 35 years, making it a little harder to sell the idea that this team is going to change the way politics and Washington work. If it's an outsider Obama settles on, Kaine might best fit the bill. This would be a ticket more in the mold of Clinton-Gore in 1992 in that it would represent a changing of the guard. But Kaine's relative lack of experience could be a drawback.

Bayh remains at the top spot of the CBSNews.com vice presidential Hot Sheet because he seems to fit Obama's needs best. He has experience in Washington, but not too much. He's got some foreign policy credentials but has also been a governor. And, like Kaine, he comes from a potential swing state that Obama would love to put into his column. Drawbacks: His support for the Iraq War may cause problems with the base and he doesn't approach Obama's charisma.

Of course no one outside the candidate and some of his closest advisers know who Obama will choose, or if he's even made his decision yet. And there is some last-minute whispering that is intriguing. After months of being written off as a hazardous choice, Hillary Clinton's name is suddenly popping up again as a "surprise" pick. Likewise, Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius and New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson have experienced a bit of resurgence while Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd and Rhode Island Senator Jack Reed remains unexpectedly in the mix. Time is short, stay tuned.

  • John McCain is preparing to roll out his vice presidential choice on Friday, August 29th, the Politico reports -- the day after Obama accepts the Democratic nomination and his 72nd birthday. The announcement may be rolled out with a large rally in Ohio that day, the report notes.
  • Obama continues to sharpen his rhetoric against McCain and demonstrate his willingness to hit back after a couple of weeks of GOP attacks. "I have to just remind people that it is true that, just as John McCain has embraced George Bush's policies, he's embraced his politics," Obama told supporters at a stop in New Mexico. "And the same people who brought you George Bush are now trying to package John McCain."
  • In a speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars this morning, Obama responded to McCain assertion to the same group that he had tried to "legislate failure" in Iraq. "Instead of just offering policy answers, he turned to a typical laundry list of political attacks," Obama said. "He can run that kind of campaign ... but I believe the American people are better than that."
  • When the conventions have ended, attention will shift to the nitty-gritty of the presidential race – the battle to get to the 270 Electoral Votes needed to win. Get a head-start on the strategy by using CBSNews.com's Ways to Win map. Start with our battleground scenario, look at the 2004 results map or start from scratch to assign states to candidates and find a way for them to win the White House.