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CAMPAIGN '08: RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE

Speculation says Biden is the pick

He insists he's not, but others say he is likely to join Obama's ticket.

August 20, 2008|Peter Nicholas | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — As Sen. Barack Obama prepares to announce his vice presidential pick, some people close to Delaware Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. say he has leaped to the top of the list of prospects.

Biden's junior colleague in the Senate, Thomas R. Carper, said in an interview Tuesday that he understood Biden's chances to be serious.

Carper said Biden would be a solid choice.

"I look at the aspects of our ticket -- where we're strongest and where we're most in need of help -- and Joe brings more to the ticket than any of the other people whose names are mentioned as finalists," he said. "With all due respect -- and I know the other folks in consideration -- they're a wonderful group, but they're not really all that close."

Other top candidates mentioned include Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine and Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh.

Carper said he learned Tuesday in a "discussion that involved protection for Joe" that security surrounding Biden would be ratcheting up.

A Biden spokeswoman said that the senator was unaware of any extra security, and a U.S. Secret Service spokesman said Biden was not under Secret Service protection.

A person familiar with the selection process said Biden had a long private meeting with Obama within the last two weeks and had turned over financial and medical records for vetting.

Biden also has talked repeatedly with Eric Holder, who is helping run Obama's search, said the person, who asked to remain anonymous in order to speak more freely.

In a brief encounter with reporters outside his home, Biden dismissed speculation that he's the likely choice.

"You guys have better things to do. I'm not the guy," he said.

Obama's selection of a running mate has been among the most closely guarded secrets of his 18-month campaign. His press office would not comment on any aspect of the search for a vice president, which, along with Holder, is being run by Caroline Kennedy, daughter of the late president.

The announcement could come any day. Obama is to make a campaign stop Saturday at the Old State Capitol in Springfield, Ill., where he announced in February 2007 that he was entering the presidential contest.

The event would seem an obvious choice for a joint appearance by the newly minted Democratic ticket.

Whether an Obama-Biden pairing is the strongest possible ticket is unclear, according to Democratic strategists. Biden is steeped in foreign policy as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

That might reassure voters who worry that Obama lacks foreign policy credentials. But Biden is also a creature of Washington, having won his Senate seat in 1972.

For a candidate promising change, Obama would have trouble arguing that Biden offers a fresh perspective.

Mark Fabiani, communications director for Al Gore's 2000 presidential bid, said of Obama: "To me he's ridden the change horse this far in politics, and if I'm him, I don't want to get off that horse. And I don't worry about shoring up my foreign policy credentials, and I don't worry about winning this state or that state. I worry about projecting an image of change."

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peter.nicholas@latimes.com

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