McCain is in search for running mate

March 6, 2008 7:58:32 PM PST
Republican John McCain praised Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, a potential running mate, as they campaigned together Thursday, although he sidestepped questions about a vice presidential choice. During his first campaign appearance since clinching the GOP presidential nomination, McCain said he has not even begun looking at vice presidential candidates.

"You know, obviously, we have just begun that process, and we, in fact, have not even outlined how we're going to go about this," McCain said at a news conference after he and Crist shook hands with people at a diner. "We're looking at how the process was conducted by other candidates and nominees of their party.

"But I know one thing about Governor Crist," he added. "And that is that he is a great governor. He does a great job. And I think that ... there are many ways for him to serve the country."

As soon as McCain wrapped up the Republican presidential nomination Tuesday with victories in Texas and Ohio, attention turned to his running mate. McCain, who is 71, has said his foremost concern is finding someone capable of serving in his place.

He talked with President Bush about making that choice over hotdogs when they lunched Wednesday at the White House.

As he told reporters later, Bush joked, "You know, you want to be careful who you select to run it." That's because Vice President Dick Cheney headed the running-mate search for Bush, who ultimately chose Cheney.

McCain, who plans to mix campaign appearances with fundraising in the next week, also said he wants to talk with people who have been involved with such a process before. Specifically, he mentioned A.B. Culvahouse, who served as counsel to President Reagan from 1987-1989, as someone he wanted to speak with.

McCain also repeated his criticism of Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama for saying during a recent debate that he would meet with Cuba's new leader, Raul Castro, without preconditions. McCain said the statement shows Obama's inexperience.

"I don't know if he's naive or not. I know he's inexperienced," McCain said in response to a question.

McCain previously has said Obama's position on meeting with Castro and leaders of other rogue nations, without preconditions, demonstrates a lack of experience or judgment. A meeting between the U.S. president and Castro "is something that would only serve to legitimize him," McCain said.

In the debate with rival Hillary Rodham Clinton on Feb. 21, Obama said: "I would meet without preconditions, although Senator Clinton is right that there has to be preparation. It is very important for us to make sure that there was an agenda, and on that agenda was human rights, releasing of political prisoners, opening up the press. And that preparation might take some time.

"But I do think that it's important for the United States not just to talk to its friends, but also to talk to its enemies," Obama added.

In response, Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton said McCain and Clinton "both have the experience of supporting a Bush Cuba policy that has failed America and the Cuban people for fifty years. Instead of empty rhetoric, Barack Obama actually has a strategy to help advance liberty for the Cuban people, starting with lifting all restrictions on family travel and cash remittances and pursuing direct diplomacy."

Crist, 51, is among more than a half-dozen politicians mentioned as a potential running mate. His last-minute endorsement of McCain is credited with helping him win the pivotal Florida primary election on Jan. 29. Sworn in to office last year, his state will be a battleground for the November election.

"The process is really open," McCain said of his search. "But I know that Governor Crist will continue to serve this country in many respects in the future. He's still a very young man."

Also mentioned as possible McCain running mates are Govs. Mark Sanford of South Carolina, Sarah Palin of Alaska, Jon Huntsman Jr.

of Utah, Haley Barbour of Mississippi and Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota.