Obama Keeps Nation Guessing On Running Mate
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
And I'm Michele Norris.
No text message yet. Barack Obama is expected to appear tomorrow at the Illinois state capitol in Springfield with his pick for vice president, and he's expected to announce that pick in a text message alert to supporters, but who that pick is remains a tightly held secret, quite a feat in an age where leaks are so commonplace.
Joining me now is NPR's national political correspondent, Mara Liasson. Hello, Mara.
MARA LIASSON: Hello, Michele.
NORRIS: Well, we know that we don't know who the pick is, but what do we know?
LIASSON: We know, right. We know that he's decided who it is, because he said so himself. He's also left a trail of clues in interviews with news organizations. He told Time he wants someone who's not a yes-man and not a press hog, someone who compliments him. That's a clue, not necessarily augments his strength but compliments them. He told USA Today that he wants somebody who's independent, who can challenge him so he can have a robust debate in the White House, and that's pretty much what we know.
NORRIS: There had been the expectation or perhaps even the hope among some in the Democratic Party that Senator Obama would announce his pick earlier in the week, spend the week campaigning with him or her. Now we're looking at only a couple of days before the convention actually begins. Help us understand the strategy here.
LIASSON: Well, I think that the Obama camp feels that you can't get a whole lot of days of news coverage out of a vice-presidential pick. You've only got a couple, so why not do it right up against your convention so you start - you command the spotlight for instead of four days in Denver, for an extra two, and you kind of have this seamless flow right into the convention.
The other thing that they did is they created a press frenzy about the vice-presidential pick, a lot of attention to this. I don't know how many conversations you and I have had about it on the air. And also, in that time period, they did a lot of organizing.
By deciding to leak it - to announce it in a text message, you could go to the Web site, sign up. I don't know how many more new names they've gotten with that ploy, but everything the Obama campaign does is used as an organizing tool, and the frenzy and the curiosity around the vice-president pick was no exception.
NORRIS: The campaign has been very careful not to let this name leak, and as we said, which is quite a feat in itself. How have they been able to pull this off?
LIASSON: Well, I think they pulled it off by just having very few people in the room. Only about six people have been involved in these discussions. They are all top-level people in the Obama campaign, and they're very disciplined. That's what this campaign is known for.
NORRIS: As for Senator McCain, we've heard that he's likely to announce his running mate next Friday. That's the day after the Democratic convention concludes. Are you hearing any more about that, Mara?
LIASSON: Well, that certainly makes the most sense. It would be the Friday before his own convention. It would be the Friday, the day after that big INVESCO Field speech that Barack Obama is going to give. Certainly McCain has an incentive to step on whatever bounce Obama gets out of his convention.
And it's interesting. John McCain has been floating some vice-presidential picks that have caused a lot of angst in his own party. He's been floating names of two pro-choice potential vice-presidential nominees, Joe Lieberman and Tom Ridge.
I suspect that if he was left to his own druthers, he would pick one of them, but his staff has been kind of aghast at the notion that he would choose a pro-choice pick, and they have been dutifully floating these names to see what the reaction is, and the reaction has been pretty negative in the Republican Party.
But it's interesting. Just as the introduction of a new foreign policy crisis in Georgia may have boosted the stock of Democratic vice-presidential possibilities, like Evan Bayh or Joe Biden, I think this latest flap about John McCain's houses has boosted maybe the stock of someone like a Tim Pawlenty, governor of Minnesota, with real working-class roots, who talks about the importance of having the Republican Party speak to Sam's Club Republicans, not just country club Republicans.
NORRIS: That's NPR's national political correspondent Mara Liasson. Always good to talk to you, Mara.
LIASSON: Thank you, Michele.
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