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Inside Politics

Kerry veep choice may come next week

Source: Edwards, Gephardt, Vilsack on list

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John F. Kerry
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Sen. John Kerry may reveal his choice for running mate early next week, a Democratic source said Thursday.

The Democratic presidential hopeful's campaign has asked at least three Democrats on his short list for the job of vice president for detailed contact information and told each to be ready "as early as Tuesday" to join the senator from Massachusetts for campaign events and a fund-raiser next Thursday or Friday, the source said.

Known to have been contacted are Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, Rep. Richard Gephardt of Missouri and Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, though others may have also been contacted, too, the source said.

Two other contenders, according to Democratic sources, are Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois ands Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware.

Durbin, however, told reporters Friday that speculation about him was "plain wrong" and that he would not be on the ticket.

Biden speaks regularly with Kerry and is a close confidant. However, Biden has previously said he has not been formally vetted by the campaign.

The Kerry campaign has a staff of 12 to 15 people ready to work for a running mate, including a chief of staff and communications director, Democratic sources said.

Richardson's decision

In a related development, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson took himself out of the running with a letter to Kerry on Thursday.

A source close to Richardson told CNN that the governor was interviewed for two hours by Kerry in Phoenix, Arizona on Tuesday.

In his letter to Kerry, Richardson describes himself as "honored and flattered" by the consideration, but says he "made a commitment to the people of New Mexico to service a full term."

Earlier this week, a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll found that Edwards got the most enthusiastic response from Americans who were asked to consider possible running mates for Kerry.

Gephardt placed a solid second in the poll released Tuesday.

Seventy-two percent said they would be enthusiastic or satisfied with an Edwards pick, compared with 64 percent for Gephardt.

Both Edwards and Gephardt sought the Democratic nomination before abandoning their campaigns as Kerry, a four-term U.S. senator from Massachusetts, pulled ahead.

Poll respondents were also asked to consider retired Gen. Wesley Clark, Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana and Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack. Respondents said they were enthusiastic or satisfied with those men at percentages of 59, 58 and 54, respectively.

Money matters

As of Wednesday, the Kerry campaign said it had raised more than $175 million -- $100 million of that from individual donations of $100 or less. More than $30 million was raised in June alone.

That represents the most money ever raised by any challenger, Democrat or Republican. And, with the exception of President Bush, it's the most money any presidential candidate has ever raised, the campaign said.

CNN's John Mercurio and Keating Holland contributed to this report.

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