WASHINGTON — Senator Obama is offering more clues that he will pick someone other than Senator Clinton as his running mate, even as he insists his former rival is under consideration for the job.
Asked about the attributes he was looking for in a vice president, the presumptive Democratic nominee said yesterday that he wanted a candidate "who shares a vision of the country, where we need to go, that we've got to fundamentally change not only our policies, but how our politics works, how business is done in Washington." That description is significant because it matches the core argument the Illinois senator offered against Mrs. Clinton's candidacy to defeat her in the Democratic primary. He characterized the former first lady as representing the status quo and a divisive brand of politics, and his statement yesterday signals that their broad agreement on policy may not be enough to win her a spot on the ticket.
Mr. Obama, in an interview on NBC's "Meet the Press," said he also valued "integrity" and "independence" in a running mate, adding that he wanted someone "who's willing to tell me where he thinks or she thinks I'm wrong." Compatibility would be key, he said, as would the ability to be an active partner in government.
"I'm not interested in a vice president who I just send off to go to funerals," Mr. Obama said.
The presumptive Democratic nominee dodged specific questions about the selection process or potential choices, but when moderator Tom Brokaw mentioned Mrs. Clinton, he made sure to emphasize that she remained in the running. "I've said consistently that I think Hillary Clinton would be on anybody's short list," Mr. Obama said. "She is one of the most effective, intelligent, courageous leaders that we have in the Democratic Party."
A spokeswoman for Mrs. Clinton declined to discuss the vice presidency in detail, but she suggested that Mr. Obama's comments did not rule out the New York senator. "Senator Clinton and Senator Obama share a fundamental desire to change the disastrous policies of the past eight years," the spokeswoman, Kathleen Strand, said. "This is a decision that is Senator Obama's and his alone. We're going to respect the privacy of that process and not discuss it."
A group advocating for a joint Obama-Clinton ticket, Vote Both, said Mrs. Clinton mostly fit the vice presidential description Mr. Obama put forward. "Senator Obama said he is looking for someone with policy expertise, effectiveness, and the courage to tell him when she disagrees with him," a spokesman for the group who is a former Clinton aide, Sam Arora, said. "It is sounding more and more like Hillary is exactly the person he is looking for."
Mr. Obama appeared on "Meet the Press" and spoke to a convention of minority journalists in Chicago yesterday after returning from a much-hyped trip abroad last week. He tried to play down expectations that the trip would yield a bump in the polls, saying a week of silence on the economic issues facing the country could have the opposite effect.
He plans to meet in Washington today with a team of high-profile economic advisers, including a former Federal Reserve chairman, Paul Volcker; the billionaire investor Warren Buffett; two former treasury secretaries under President Clinton, Robert Rubin and Lawrence Summers, and a former labor secretary, Robert Reich.
The meeting will kick off a renewed focus on the economy and will be followed by a tour of Ohio, a key battleground state.
As Mr. Obama and Senator McCain continued their sniping about foreign policy, a new issue arose yesterday when the presumptive Republican nominee appeared to reverse himself on the topic of affirmative action. Mr. McCain said in an interview on ABC's "This Week" that he supports a ballot initiative in his home state of Arizona to end race- and gender-based affirmative action. ABC News later reported that in 1998 he had called a similar push "divisive" and voiced support for affirmative action.
Mr. Obama criticized the Arizona senator for the apparent switch during his appearance in Chicago. He said he supports affirmative action but not racial quotas.