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Va. governor leading contender for Obama VP slot, sources say

 
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07/28/2008 10:02 PM
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Va. governor leading contender for Obama VP slot, sources say
As Senator Barack Obama turns to the choice of his running mate, Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine has emerged as one of the campaign’s potential finalists, sources familiar with conversations in Richmond and in Chicago said.

Kaine, an early Obama supporter whose biography nicely dovetails with the Illinois senator’s, "ranks very, very high on the short list," said a source who has spoken recently to senior Obama aides about Kaine.

Kaine "is getting a critical examination," the source said.

The 50-year-old Virginia governor is among a handful of logical, and much-discussed, choices to join Obama on the campaign trail. Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, former Georgia Sen. Sam Nunn and Delaware Senator Joe Biden are among others frequently mentioned.

Obama and his top advisers met Monday afternoon at the Washington, D.C., law office of Eric Holder, one of the leaders of his vice presidential vetting team.

Kaine's position as governor of a state the Obama campaign hopes to make a key battleground and his background as a Spanish-speaking former Catholic missionary and civil rights lawyer make him a strong potential pick.

Kaine could serve as ambassador, his proponents say, to four key groups: Virginians, Catholics, working-class white voters and Hispanics. (Kaine can be seen in one YouTube video endorsing Obama in proficient Spanish.)

The obvious stumbling block: a lack of foreign policy and Washington experience.

But Kaine’s political base of operations – some 100 miles south of Washington – seems to fit Obama's hint, in an NBC interview taped Saturday, that he'd prefer a Beltway outsider.

"I'm going to want somebody with independence — who's willing to tell me where he thinks, or she thinks, I'm wrong," he said. "And I'm going to want somebody who shares a vision of the country: where we need to go — that we've got to fundamentally change not only our policies, but how politics work, how business is done in Washington."

Obama spokesman Bill Burton declined to comment on any aspect of the vice presidential selection process.

"When the governor agreed to be the national co-chair for the campaign obviously he made a commitment to do whatever he can to help Obama get elected," said Kaine communications director Delacey Skinner. "He's always flattered to be mentioned, but he also made a pledge at that point that any strategic conversations he was going to have with the campaign he would keep private."

Two Virginia Democrats close to Kaine, however, said Kaine and his staff believe that he is being very seriously considered, and that he and his staff had met with lawyers and submitted piles of documents to the campaign.

Another source familiar with Kaine's vetting said, however, that he hasn't personally spoken to Caroline Kennedy who, with Holder, heads Obama's search team.

Kaine's circle is "under the impression that he's being looked at very, very seriously but he's not the only one," said one of the two Democrats close to Kaine.

"The third floor is definitely focused on this in a real way," said the other Virginia Democrat, referring to Kaine's Capitol offices. "They've been talking about what would happen if he had to leave; they're very keyed up on it."

Beyond Kaine's demographic appeal and his early support – dating back to February of 2007 – he and Obama are "simpatico," said Larry Sabato, a professor of political science at the University of Virginia. "They are two of a kind."

"He would arguably add a point or two" in Virginia, Sabato said, adding that Kaine's downside is his relatively short tenure in a state that limits governors to one term.

"He's been governor of Virginia for two and half years and putting him on the ticket reinforces the argument of lack of experience," he said.

[link to news.yahoo.com]

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