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Inside Politics

Speculation over Kerry VP pick soars

Insiders: Announcement Tuesday barring last-minute hitch


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John F. Kerry
Democratic candidates

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Speculation about a running mate for Sen. John Kerry was the talk of political circles Monday, but the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee was saying little.

The political chatter intensified when Kerry addressed supporters during a barbecue at his wife's farm near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

"I'm heading out to Indianapolis to give a speech tomorrow, but before I go we're gonna do a little rally here in Pittsburgh at Market Square, so if any of you can make it, I'm told the gates open at 7 in the morning -- if you're up at that hour -- but at 9 o'clock tomorrow we're gonna have some fun, and then we'll head out to the Midwest again and back on the trail."

Democratic sources close to the campaign told CNN that barring a last-minute hitch, Kerry will use the rally to announce his choice.

They added that in an attempt to keep the name secret until Kerry makes the announcement, his choice is not scheduled to attend the rally. (CNN.com Special Report: America Votes 2004 Veep Contenders)

But Kerry refused to be drawn into the speculation during an interview with a Pittsburgh television station.

"I have no comment at all on the public press. I don't know how people are reporting some of the things they are," he said. "But I'll just tell you that I've not made a decision at this point in time, and I'm going to continue to keep it a private and personal process until I announce it publicly."

In anticipation of an announcement, the Kerry campaign has distributed a memo to the Democratic National Committee and to Democratic governors and members of Congress outlining "recommended conduct" for the days after Kerry's revelation, according to Democratic officials.

The memo asks officials and officeholders to decline all interviews on the first day of the announcement so that the only Democratic voices heard will be those of Kerry and his running mate, the officials said.

The memo urges prominent Democrats to go out in force on the second day to rebut expected GOP attacks on his choice, according to the officials.

According to several Democratic sources, Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina interrupted his family vacation at Walt Disney World last Thursday to visit Washington for a private meeting with Kerry, without even telling many members of his own staff.

Sources said the meeting went well and that Edwards' stock was rising with Kerry. Edwards was Kerry's strongest rival in the Democratic primaries but has since become a vocal and visible supporter of Kerry's candidacy.

Edwards, 51, traveled to Boston, Massachusetts, to appear at two Kerry fund-raisers Monday night, after which he was scheduled to return to Washington.

Sunday, Kerry campaigned in Iowa with Gov. Tom Vilsack, 53, another of the three men considered to be on his short list of possible choices.

At multiple events, both Kerry and Vilsack deflected reporters' questions about whether the two had discussed the Iowa governor's chances of getting on the ticket.

Rep. Richard Gephardt of Missouri, 63, is also considered to be a top contender for the second slot.

Walking his dog outside his Washington-area home on Monday, Gephardt referred all questions about the vice presidential slot to the Kerry campaign.

"I don't know anything," he said.

Biden: 'Most unlikely'

Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware, seen by some Democrats as a contender, told CNN on Monday that he was "the most unlikely vice presidential pick." Asked if he was taking himself out of the running, Biden replied in the affirmative.

"No one's done any vetting, any checking that I'm aware of," he said outside his home in Wilmington, Delaware. "There's not a single thing that's occurred relative to the vice presidency and me that I'm aware of."

Biden, 61, took a short-lived shot at the Democratic nomination in 1988.

Two other potential running mates whose names popped up in the swirl of speculation surrounding the process -- New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois -- have also ruled themselves out.

The Democrats meet in Boston for their nominating convention at the end of this month. If Kerry names a running mate before July 19, the Democratic ticket would be set more than a week before the start of the convention -- a record for either party. (Interactive: CNN.com's Special Report: America Votes 2004 Election Calendar)

Kerry recently told consultants and fund-raisers that the choice was in his hands now, according to a Democratic source, and that he was "proud" of the confidentiality of his vice presidential selection process.

Kerry also said he needed to choose a running mate whom he was comfortable with, indicating that regional appeal and depth of experience were somewhat secondary.

At Monday's barbecue, Kerry and his wife, Teresa, were hosts to politicians from Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia -- key states in the general election.

Later in the week, Kerry plans to campaign in Pennsylvania, Indiana and Ohio, including speeches in Pittsburgh and Indiana on Tuesday outlining a "vision for responsible leadership."

CNN's Dana Bash, Kevin Bohn, Paul Courson, Sasha Johnson, John Mercurio, Steve Turnham, Kelly Wallace and Robert Yoon contributed to this report.


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