Obama hints that Clinton could be running mate

Barack Obama on Thursday gave the clearest hint yet that he may consider Hillary Clinton as his vice-presidential running mate in the November election for the White House. With the campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination close to finished as a contest, Obama began looking beyond his battles with Clinton to the one with the Republican John McCain.

There are six more primaries left on the Democratic calendar, but Obama has established such a formidable lead that Clinton is no longer realistically capable of overtaking him, and the US media were on Thursday treating him as the presumptive Democratic nominee.

The possibility of her serving as vice-president seemed unlikely until on Thursday, given the personal bitterness that has grown between the two camps in the course of the campaign. But Obama, in an interview with NBC News, refused to rule out the prospect. ”There’s no doubt that she’s qualified to be vice-president; there’s no doubt she’s qualified to be president,” he said.

In an interview with CNN , he said he had not yet wrapped up the Democratic nomination, but when he did he would start the process of selecting a running mate. ”She is tireless, she is smart. She is capable. And so obviously she’d be on anybody’s shortlist to be a potential vice-presidential candidate,” he said.

Clinton’s campaign team insists she will continue in the Democratic contest until all the primaries have been completed, on June 3. This doggedness may reflect a hope on her part that something will turn up that could damage Obama, but it is more likely that she wants to add expected wins in West Virginia, Kentucky and Puerto Rico to her grand total and extract political favours from Obama, which could include the vice-presidential slot.

Howard Wolfson, her campaign spokesperson, said on Thursday he had not heard her express any interest in the vice-presidency. But the race has changed significantly since she failed to make a breakthrough on Tuesday in North Carolina, where Obama won overwhelmingly, and in Indiana, where she secured only a slim victory.

The new dynamic was underlined in Obama’s victory lap of Congress on Thursday, in which the senator from Illinois spent 45 minutes in the House of Representatives trading handshakes and even hugs with members who were Clinton supporters. He also met with members of Congress who remain among the uncommitted Democratic superdelegates, hoping to win over enough to clinch the nomination.

Obama told reporters afterwards that he would contest the six remaining contests, and said he expected Clinton to win at least two. ”Senator Clinton is a formidable candidate, she is very likely to win West Virginia and Kentucky. Those are two states where she’s got insurmountable leads,” he told reporters. ”But my goal has been to spend time in all 50 states.”

With the delegate map and momentum in his favour, Obama’s pace on the campaign trail is far less frantic than Clinton’s; she had appearances in West Virginia, South Dakota and Oregon on Thursday.

Obama is not scheduled to appear in West Virginia until the day before its primary on May 13, and his team said that he would begin to campaign in states such as Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida that would be crucial in November.

His campaign, meanwhile, appeared to send out a signal to supporters to avoid calling for Clinton to exit the race. ”This is her decision,” Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri, an Obama supporter, told MSNBC television. ”She must decide what is right for her and her campaign.”

Clinton has shown no sign that she is willing to bow out quietly. In public her campaign has been strenuously arguing that she would be more electable in November, despite trailing Obama badly during the primaries in delegates, the popular vote and states won.

At a rally in West Virginia on Thursday, Clinton said she had a better chance of winning swing voters than Obama. She was even blunter in an interview with USA Today, quoting an Associated Press article ”that found how Senator Obama’s support among working, hard-working Americans, white Americans, is weakening again, and how whites in both states who had not completed college were supporting me”. – guardian.co.uk Â

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