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Biden emerges as front-runner

Obama’s running mate selection to come today; Kaine, Bayh eliminated.

Evan Bayh: Indiana senator since his election in 1998.

Joe Biden: The Delaware senator has emerged as the leading VP candidate. He was born in Scranton.

Chet Edwards: Texas congressman from President Bush’s home district in Crawford.

Hillary Clinton: N.Y. senator and former first lady, Clinton lost the Democratic nomination to Obama but remains very popular in the party.

Tim Kaine: Kaine has been the governor of Virginia since winning the post in 2005.

Kathleen Sebelius: Sebelius is a two-term Kansas governor.

WASHINGTON — On a day and night of political suspense, Delaware Sen. Joe Biden emerged as a leading contender Friday to become Barack Obama’s vice presidential pick as two running mate rivals learned they had been eliminated.

Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine spread word he had been ruled out and Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana was told he was not Obama’s choice, according to party officials.

The normally loquacious Biden, a Scranton native, maintained a low profile as associates said they believed — but did not know — that he would be tapped. They added they had been asked to stand by in case their help was needed.

Hillary Rodham Clinton’s prospects remained a mystery on a day full of them, although senior aides said the Obama campaign never requested financial or other records from her.

Three days before the party gathers in Denver to nominate Obama for the fall campaign, several officials said dark horse Rep. Chet Edwards, whose district includes President Bush’s ranch in Crawford, Texas, had made the list of finalists, along with Biden and Gov. Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas — and unknown others Obama had managed to keep secret despite intense scrutiny.

“It’ll be exciting news,” Sebelius told reporters in Kansas.

Obama, his secret his own, went to the gym for a morning workout before heading to an office in Chicago to polish the convention acceptance speech he will deliver next Thursday night.

Obama told reporters on Thursday he’s already made his choice, and aides have used the prospect of a text-message announcement to try and attract additional supporters by soliciting their cell phone numbers and e-mail addresses.

The Illinois senator has arranged a joint appearance for today with his running mate at the state capitol in Springfield, Ill.

Hundreds of miles to the west, carpenters, electricians, sound stage gurus and others transformed the Pepsi Center in Denver into a made-for-television convention venue.

Tucked away in one corner were thousands of lightweight rolled cardboard handles, meant to allow delegates to wave signs bearing the names of the ticket — once the identity of Obama’s running mate was known.

And he wasn’t saying.

“Obviously, the most important question is: Is this person ready to be president?” Obama told “The Early Show” on CBS. Second, he said, was: “Can this person help me govern? Are they going to be an effective partner in creating the kind of economic opportunity here at home and guiding us through some dangerous waters internationally?”

And, he added: “I want somebody who is going to be able to challenge my thinking and not simply be a ’yes person’ when it comes to policymaking.

Among those believed still in the running, Edwards and Biden fit the mold of running mate with experience in defense or foreign policy — areas in which Obama performs relatively poorly in the polls compared with Republican Sen. John McCain.

Clinton’s credentials were forged in the primaries and caucuses where she ran a close second to Obama in the battle for the nomination.

There was no shortages of other speculation, ranging from: GOP Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, who traveled with Obama to Iraq and Afghanistan; Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee, or Democratic Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut.

Edwards is a favorite of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who praised his “extraordinary credentials” on ABC’s “This Week” on Aug. 3 and said: “I hope he will be the nominee.”

One Democratic official with knowledge of the conversation said Obama told Pelosi recently that she would be pleased with the choice. Other Democratic officials said he was on the short list. All spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss Obama’s selection process.

Edwards, chairman of the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Subcommittee, is a nine-term moderate Democrat representing the GOP-leaning Texas district. He is well-known in Texas but does not have a national profile.

Asked about Pelosi’s praise, Edwards said in July that he “cannot imagine that many Americans would not consider it a privilege” to be considered a vice presidential contender.

Among the other potential choices, Biden was at home in Delaware.

Several GOP officials said Friday that McCain had not settled on a running mate — nor offered the job to anyone — although former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty were under serious consideration. It’s likely McCain will wait to see who Obama selects before picking his running mate.

Officials said the campaign also was preparing for an “unconventional” nominee, an indication that oft-mentioned former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, an abortion-rights supporter, or Connecticut Democrat-turned-independent Joe Lieberman still could be in the running. That category also could include non-politicians who McCain deeply admires, such as Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq.

Two officials close to Romney said he had not been offered the job. Pawlenty batted away questions Friday in a CNN interview, saying, “I’m sure he’ll make a wonderful choice for our party and for our country and we’ll just have to wait until next Friday to find out the answer to those questions.”

The GOP convention begins Sept. 1 in St. Paul, Minn.

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