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Obama And McCain Turn Attention To Running Mates

In the U.S. presidential campaign Thursday, the Democratic race between Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton was eclipsed by speculation over vice presidential running mates for the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone reports from Washington.

Barack Obama has yet to nail down the Democratic nomination, but that has apparently not stopped him from starting the search for a vice-presidential running mate.

U.S. News organizations reported that Obama has enlisted the help of veteran Democratic operative Jim Johnson to begin vetting possible running mates. Johnson performed the same task for Democratic nominees John Kerry in 2004 and Walter Mondale in 1984.

The top Democrat in Congress, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, says it would be wise for both Obama and rival Hillary Clinton to prepare for the next stage in the U.S. election campaign.

"I think, though, that Hillary Clinton and Senator Obama, both having a good chance to win the nomination, probably should start thinking about who his or her running mate might be, what transition teams they might have," said Nancy Pelosi.

Senator Clinton took a break from the campaign trail Thursday. She did attend a Senate hearing on Iraq and raised concerns about the war in Afghanistan.

"It has been the forgotten front lines in the war against terrorism, and we have allowed what was an initial success to, if not deteriorate, certainly stagnate," said Hillary Clinton.

Clinton campaign officials continue to press their case that the results of earlier primaries in Michigan and Florida should count. The national Democratic Party voided the results from those two states after they moved up the date of their primaries in violation of the primary schedule set forth by the national party. As of now, they will not have delegates at the national nominating convention in late August.

Clinton won both primaries, but neither she nor Senator Obama campaigned in the two states, and Obama had his name removed from the ballot in Michigan.

The Democratic Party's rules committee is to consider what to do about Florida and Michigan on May 31.

In the meantime, Clinton campaign adviser Harold Ickes is insisting that the party recognize the results of the Michigan and Florida primaries.

"Most important to Mrs. Clinton is that the views of the voters of the Michigan primary and the Florida primary be respected and be reflected in terms of the allocation of delegates," said Harold Ickes.

Senator Obama is also focused on Florida this week, mindful that it is likely to be a hard fought battleground state in the November election.

Obama continues to argue that electing the presumptive Republican nominee, Senator John McCain, would in effect extend the Bush presidency for a third term.

"We cannot afford four more years of George Bush foreign policy, and that is why we cannot afford John McCain and that is why Democrats are going to be unified in November," said Barack Obama.

Senator McCain, meanwhile, may also be turning his attention to the selection of a vice presidential running mate. McCain will host three Republicans at his Arizona home over the next few days who have been mentioned as possible vice presidential contenders. They include former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, and Florida Governor Charlie Crist.

McCain's campaign says the event is a social gathering, and not part of a vetting process for vice president.