Obama 2008
Sen. Barack Obama waves as he emerges from a meeting in Washington, Wednesday.
updated 7/9/2008 5:51:15 PM ET 2008-07-09T21:51:15

Democrat Barack Obama and his former rival, Hillary Rodham Clinton, flew to New York on Wednesday along with his vice presidential searcher Caroline Kennedy.

Clinton, mentioned as a possible running mate, and Obama were to appear together at two fundraisers there Wednesday night.

The flight came on a day in which Obama touched off new speculation about his choice of a running mate by making an unannounced morning stop at the downtown building where another member of his vice presidential search team, Eric Holder, works.

Afterward, Obama wouldn't say why he visited the building or whom he saw there.

Aides were tight lipped about why Obama, Clinton and Kennedy traveled together other than to cite the fundraisers. Kennedy is to introduce Obama at the first; Clinton will introduce him at the second.

Obama was already onboard his campaign plane when Clinton arrived. They greeted each other, stood in the aisle chatting for several minutes. Clinton then took her seat in the first row on the right side of the plane while Obama sat in the second row on the left. Neither spoke with reporters also aboard the campaign plane.

Earlier Wednesday, Clinton deflected a reporter's inquiry about whether she has turned over documents for her former rival's campaign to review as part of the vice presidential search.

Obama also turned aside reporters curious about his morning stop.

"I'm not going to tell you," the smiling likely Democratic nominee told reporters when asked who he met and what they discussed as he exited the office building that houses Holder's law firm some two hours and 20 minutes after entering. He had two top aides — campaign manager David Plouffe and chief strategist David Axelrod — at his side.

The stop was not on his public schedule, and aides would say only that Obama had private meetings planned while in Washington.

They wouldn't provide additional details, including whether Obama had met with Holder, a partner at Covington and Burling. The firm is located just blocks from the White House that Obama hopes to occupy come January.

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In a city that revels in the intrigue surrounding a vice presidential pick, Obama's midmorning stop was certain to fuel speculation about who he would choose for the No. 2 spot on the Democratic ticket — and whether he met with any of them at Holder's office or, perhaps, elsewhere at another time.

Over the past few weeks, several officials thought to be on Obama's list have indicated they lack interest in the job. The latest was Virginia Sen. Jim Webb, who issued a statement this week that said he had told Obama that he intended to remain in the Senate and "under no circumstances will I be a candidate for vice president."

Both Obama and GOP rival John McCain are trying to keep a tight lid on their searches, including only a small handful of top aides in the discussions to make sure the vetting process is as discrete as possible.

Nonetheless, each candidate is believed to be deep into process of picking a vice presidential candidate. They may even be to the point of asking potentials for records, such as tax returns, financial holdings, medical documents and military files, or secretly interviewing candidates face-to-face.

So-called "short lists" of prospects probably exist, given how long both campaigns have been weighing their options. Obama's search committee, made up of Holder and Kennedy, has been working since early June, while McCain's helper, attorney Arthur B. Culvahouse Jr., has been involved in the Republican's efforts for a couple months.

Time is a consideration for both candidates as they narrow their choices, announce their selections — and hope their choices produce an uptick in polls.

Typically, careful planning goes into the elaborate staged "roll out" of a vice presidential pick to get maximum media coverage of what is perhaps the most eagerly anticipated decision a presidential hopeful makes between clinching the party's nomination and formally accepting it at the party's national convention.

Obama is making an oversees trip later this month to Europe and the Middle East, which could make a July announcement difficult. It's also summertime and voters tend to pay little attention to politics, and McCain aides are mindful of that.

The window tightens more on Aug. 8 when the Beijing Olympics open for a several-week stretch. Democrats hold their national convention in Denver on Aug. 25-28, and Republicans follow in Minneapolis-St. Paul Sept. 1-4.

Wednesday's hint that Obama likely is fully engaged in the process began around 9:30 a.m., when his entourage, including a small contingent of reporters, left the Renaissance Mayflower Hotel, presumably to head to his Senate office on Capitol Hill so the Illinois senator could vote on a couple of bills later in the day.

A few minutes later and surprising even some of his staff, the motorcade pulled over and Obama entered the building from a back door with a sign that said "Tenant Entrance Only."

Obama spent the majority of the day in his Senate office and on Capitol Hill for a series of votes, including on a bill overhauling rules on secret government eavesdropping. He did leave for one private meeting in a local hotel.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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