Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama is expected to announce his vice presidential running mate in the next few days, while Republican contender John McCain is expected to do the same sometime next week.  Meanwhile, new polls show McCain gaining on Obama in the presidential race, setting up what appears to be a very close election in November.  VOA National correspondent Jim Malone reports from Washington.

Text message will reveal identity of Obama VP choice

The Obama campaign has promised to reveal the identity of his vice presidential running mate by text message to supporters.  Obama is scheduled to appear with his choice on Saturday in Illinois.

The latest media speculation has focused on Senators Joe Biden of Delaware and Evan Bayh of Indiana, as well as Virginia Governor Tim Kaine.

Obama was busy on the campaign trail Wednesday in Virginia, trying to tie his Republican opponent, Senator McCain, to the economic policies of President Bush.

"How many are worse off than you were since George Bush took office?  That describes the reality of our politics over the last eight years," he said.  "And that is the reason I am running for President of the United States of America because I want to make sure that the next generation here in Martinsville, here in Henry County, here in Virginia, here in the United States of America has the jobs and the opportunity of the future.

McCain criticizes Obama on energy policy

McCain campaigned in New Mexico, another state expected to be a closely fought battleground in November.

McCain emphasized his differences with Obama over energy policy.

"Senator Obama says he wants energy independence, but he is opposed to new drilling at home and he is opposed to nuclear power," he said. "My friends, we have to have nuclear power.  Nuclear power has got to be part of any way of us being energy independent.

McCain's support for additional oil drilling, a popular stance in public opinion surveys, is one factor that may be boosting him in the latest polls.

5 points separate Republican, Democrat in latest poll

A new Zogby poll gives McCain a lead over Obama of 46 to 41 percent, and he narrowly trails Obama in the Los Angeles Times-Bloomberg poll by a margin of 45 to 43 percent.  Obama does better in the latest poll by Quinnipiac University in Connecticut, leading McCain 47 to 42 percent.

Analysts say race is too close to call

Republican pollster Brian Nienaber is part of the latest bipartisan Battleground poll that looks at the candidates and the issues.  He says McCain has tightened up the race in recent weeks.

"The bottom line, I think at this stage, is too close to call," said Nienaber. "We do not know who is going to win, but I think we certainly know the myth that Obama is going to ascend uncontested to the presidency through adulation and grace and successful oratory is certainly not the case."

Democrats prepare for National Convention

Obama will have the chance to regain some momentum when the Democrats hold their national nominating convention in Denver beginning Monday.

The Republicans hold their national convention the following week in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota, and McCain is expected to announce his vice presidential pick shortly before the four-day meeting begins on September 1.

Former Democrat Lieberman named as speaker at Republican National Convention

Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty appear to be top contenders for the Republican vice presidential spot, along with a potential surprise - Senator Joe Lieberman.  Lieberman is an independent from Connecticut who ran as the Democratic Party's vice presidential nominee in 2000 with Al Gore.  Lieberman will speak to Republican delegates on the opening night of their convention.