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CAMPAIGN '08: RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE

Obama doesn't rule Clinton out

In a conversation with a Democratic donor, he explains that she's on his VP list, but Bill's potential role could be a difficult issue.

July 12, 2008|Peter Nicholas | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — Barack Obama told a potential donor to his campaign that Hillary Rodham Clinton is on his list of possible vice presidential running mates, but that her husband's status as a former president makes matters "complicated."

Jill Iscol, a faithful Democratic donor who was an ardent supporter of Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign, said Obama reached out to her because he heard she was unhappy about the way the New York senator had been treated by the Democratic Party and the media.

Iscol turned their phone conversation Thursday to the vice presidency -- something the Obama campaign has refused to discuss publicly. She said she told him that Clinton would be his best running mate.

Obama replied that she is on his list, Iscol recounted, and that it would be a mistake not to have her on such a list. But he also explained that he was thinking through a potential "complication" -- Bill Clinton.

"He said once you're a president, even if you're a former president, you're always a president," Iscol said.

That suggests Obama might be worried the White House could get crowded with Bill Clinton back on the scene.

Still, Iscol hung up believing Hillary Clinton had a shot.

Obama didn't say that Bill Clinton would be a disqualifying factor, but he conveyed that he needed to grapple with what it would mean to have a former president as second spouse.

Obama also was willing to hear Iscol make the argument for Hillary Clinton as his No. 2.

"I said nobody has been vetted the way she has been vetted," Iscol said. "We need to pick the most qualified, wisest, smartest, experienced person to serve our country alongside of Barack Obama. And I think it's Hillary Clinton. We need her, and the party needs her, and it will be a ticket that will steamroll its way to the White House."

Iscol, who lives in Westchester, N.Y., describes herself as a donor-activist.

She met Obama in 2004, at a dinner party on Martha's Vineyard, she said. During the party, her son, a Marine Corps officer, phoned from Iraq. Obama "expressed concern about my son, and subsequent to that, whenever I saw Barack Obama he was kind and thoughtful."

Along with many Clinton supporters, Iscol is closely watching the Obama campaign to see how it treats Clinton.

Asked if she might donate to Obama in the coming months, Iscol said she wanted to see if his campaign followed through on commitments to help Clinton pay down her debt.

Then there's the matter of the vice presidency.

Iscol said she may wait to see whom Obama picks.

--

peter.nicholas@latimes.com

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