By Scott Helman, Globe Staff
Seeking to tamp down a push by supporters to force her onto the Democratic presidential ticket with Senator Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton issued a statement today saying she is not gunning for vice president and the decision is Obama's to make.
"While Senator Clinton has made clear throughout this process that she will do whatever she can to elect a Democrat to the White House, she is not seeking the vice presidency, and no one speaks for her but her," Clinton's campaign said in a statement, first provided to The New York Times. "The choice here is Senator Obama's and his alone."
The statement comes as some of Clinton's leading backers, including members of Congress, top financial contributors, and advisers, have begun pushing aggressively for Obama to tap Clinton as his No. 2 a way to unite the divided Democratic Party after the grueling primary contest. Clinton herself, in a conference call with fellow New York lawmakers earlier this week, reportedly said she would was open to the idea.
But in the so-called veepstakes, publicly vying for the job -- even seeming to through surrogates or weak denials of interest -- is considered impolitic and the wrong way to actually get picked. Thus Clinton's disavowal of her supporters' efforts should not be read as a definitive statement that she would refuse an invitation to run with Obama.
Obama told reporters on his campaign plane this afternoon that he appreciated Clinton's statement.
"The next time you hear from me about the vice presidential selection process will be when I have selected a vice president," Obama added, according to accounts on various news websites. "If you hear second-hand accounts, rumors, gossip about the selection process, you can take it from me that it is wrong, because we're not going to be talking about it in the press."
The Illinois senator, asked earlier today about the possibility of asking Clinton to join the ticket, repeated what he has been saying for weeks -- that Clinton "would be on anybody's short list," but that it was far too soon to make judgments about a running mate.
"I have nothing but respect for Senator Clinton and what she's going to contribute to this party," Obama said in an interview with CNN. But, he said, "Everybody just needs to settle down. We just completed this arduous process."
Obama, who clinched the nomination on Tuesday, called it "the most important decision that I will make before I am president," and said he would be "deliberate and systematic about it because this will be my final counselor when I am making decisions in the White House, and I want to make sure I get it right."
"I am a big believer in making decisions well, not making them fast and not responding to pressure," added Obama, who is campaigning today in Virginia with three other potential VP picks, former Governor Mark Warner, current Governor Tim Kaine, and Senator Jim Webb.
Analysts say there are many variables in selecting running mates, including their relationship with the candidate, the political importance of their home state, the constituencies they represent, and whether they fill a perceived strategic hole.
Steve McMahon, a Democratic strategist who helped lead Howard Dean's 2004 campaign, said Obama, given his freshness in Washington, may look to someone more seasoned in national security and Beltway politics, just as presidential nominees before him have done.
"If you're John Kennedy, putting someone like Lyndon Johnson on the ticket helps demonstrate a kind of familiarity and experience in Washington that maybe John Kennedy didn't have," McMahon said. "The same is true with George Bush and Dick Cheney."
About Political Intelligence
Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.