Gore close to making choice on running mate, aides say
WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH, North Carolina (CNN) -- As he nears the end of a week's vacation in North Carolina, Vice President Al Gore is believed to be close to making a final choice for his running mate, according to senior campaign aides.
Gore has not yet confided in his campaign staff or consultants, but the final list is believed to include Sens. John Kerry of Massachusetts, John Edwards of North Carolina, Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, Evan Bayh of Indiana, Gov. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire and, as a backup, House Democratic Leader Rep. Richard Gephardt of Missouri.
Gephardt has made it clear to Gore that he would prefer to stay in Congress, where Gephardt would become speaker of the House if Democrats regain control in the November election.
Sources close to Gephardt say he does not believe Gore would ask him to run on the ticket unless he had no other options.
Ever since Texas Gov. George W. Bush on July 25 selected former Defense Secretary Dick Cheney to be his running mate, the Gore campaign has repeatedly characterized the Republican ticket as "old guard." This has boosted the chances of Kerry and Edwards.
Kerry turns 57 in December, only two years younger than Cheney, but he projects a much younger image. Edwards, only 47, has served in the Senate less than two years.
Gore called Kerry this week to offer condolences on the death of Kerry's father, Richard, a retired Foreign Service officer who died last Saturday, but Jim Kennedy, a vice presidential aide, said they did not discuss the vice presidency.
Lieberman is in the running because Gore reportedly is considering naming a candidate with a reputation for moral rectitude, to show he would try to set a higher standard for personal conduct than President Bill Clinton.
Lieberman delivered a harsh speech on the Senate floor chiding Clinton for his behavior after Clinton admitted he had had an inappropriate relationship with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky.
Gore's advisers want him to choose a candidate who would not only meet Gore's three criteria -- be able to take over the presidency in the event of his death or disability; be compatible with him; and be able to be a partner in government and share his ideological outlook -- but who would also send a message to voters that reinforces the campaign's themes.
Gore has said he will make his choice official on Tuesday in his native state of Tennessee.