With Hillary Clinton out of the U.S. presidential race, Democrats on Sunday began healing wounds from a bruising nominating contest and speculated about Barack Obama’s vice presidential choice.
Obama, who clinched the Democratic presidential nomination last week, was off the campaign trail, preparing for a tour of the country in his race against the presumptive Republican candidate John McCain in November.
His next major decision was his choice of running mate. Clinton, who officially bowed out of the campaign on Saturday and threw her support to the Illinois senator, has strong support from some in the party but is far from the only possible contender.
"No one brings to a ticket what Hillary brings," California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein said on ABC’s "This Week."
Feinstein, who hosted a private meeting between Obama and Clinton on Thursday night, cited Clinton achievement in winning around 18 million votes during the nominating contests with particular strength among women and working class Democrats.
"I do think she has a chance, but that’s up to him," Feinstein said. "It’s going to take some time. The nerve endings have to be healed. They are being healed."
Clinton, a former first lady and New York senator, was out of the public eye but in the past has asked her supporters not to mount a vice presidential campaign for her.
"It’s not a job that she’s seeking and it’s not a job that she’s campaigning for," her campaign communications director, Howard Wolfson, said on CBS’ "Face the Nation." "But she has made it clear, during the campaign and now, that she will do whatever she can and whatever she is asked."
DOING THE V.P. DANCE
It is traditional for possible vice presidential candidates to say they are not seeking or even thinking about the job — part of the dance they have to do. Few actually say they would not accept if asked to take the job.
Guests on the Sunday television talk shows were in full "V.P. dance" mode.
"I’m not expecting it, don’t spend a lot of time thinking about it," Democratic Gov. Tim Kaine of Virginia said on "Fox News Sunday." "Of course, it would be difficult for anybody in those circumstances to say no."
"I would leave that to Barack Obama," Sen. Jim Webb, a fellow Virginia Democrat, told CBS. "I’m happy to give him as much advice as I can, and support. I’m not really looking to be in that spot."
Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota said on Fox, "It would be an honor to be mentioned, honor to be asked. "It would be difficult to turn that down. But I don’t have any designs."
Democrats have not won Virginia in a presidential race since 1964 and Republicans have not won in Minnesota since 1972. But both parties think they could win those states this year.
To win swing states, Obama must continue to draw support from independents as he did in the nominating contests and win the backing of the millions who voted for Clinton, a fair number of whom have indicated they are upset at her loss and are considering voting for McCain.
"Party unity is obviously one of the very top features that the Obama team will be weighing as they make the decision about the V.P.," Kaine said.
In her departure speech on Saturday, Clinton asked her supporters to rally behind Obama. She drew attention to the historic battle they waged between the first serious woman presidential candidate and possibly the first black president.
"Using Senator Clinton’s help, he needs to reach out to the Clinton supporters, and he needs to reassure them as to what he would do in the agenda for change, because the comparisons with McCain are very stark," Feinstein said.