SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) – Amid growing speculation on his choice of a running mate, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama plans a return to the city where he launched his campaign.

Obama’s campaign said Tuesday he plans an appearance Saturday in Springfield, Ill. The Illinois Democrat kicked off his bid early last year in front of the former Capitol where Abraham Lincoln once served.

Obama likely will have made his choice of running mate by the time he returns to Springfield. There was no word Tuesday on whether his pick will appear with him. The Obama campaign remained in a near blackout for information about his decision and when exactly it will be announced.

Those believed to be on his short list also were keeping mum. Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, rumored as a possible choice, professed no inside knowledge of when word would come.

Obama addressed the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Orlando, Fla., Tuesday morning and didn’t reveal his choice. He praised Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman thought to be among the contenders, for proposing an additional $1 billion of reconstruction projects in the Republic of Georgia after the Russian invasion.

Then Obama headed off for a bus tour of North Carolina and Virginia to discuss economic issues through Wednesday, leaving his schedule open at the end of the week for an announcement. The Democratic National Convention is set to begin next Monday.

The list of potential running mates is widely believed to be down to four names: Sebelius, Biden, Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine and Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh. Obama’s major rival for the nomination, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, was seen by some Democrats as a longshot pick.

In Warren, Mich., on Tuesday, Sebelius wouldn’t say if she expects to be chosen and said she doesn’t know the timetable for naming Obama’s choice. “I think a week from tomorrow we will all know,” she said.

Sebelius spoke to The Associated Press by telephone before telling a town hall meeting at Macomb Community College that “Barack Obama has been a very strong champion of equal pay for equal work.” She accused his Republican rival, Sen. John McCain, of frequently opposing “the opportunity for pay equity bills to move through Congress.”

Only Obama, his wife, Michelle, a handful of his most senior advisers and his two-member search committee know for certain who has been vetted and discussed. Staffers were already in place to aid Obama’s pick, including more than a dozen seasoned operatives who have set up shop in a section of the campaign’s Chicago headquarters.

Campaign manager David Plouffe has said that Obama supporters would receive first word of Obama’s decision through a mass text message, but otherwise the team has revealed little about what to expect. Historically, presidential tickets then tour battleground states to maximize media exposure, and Obama is expected to do the same.

A similar decision looms for McCain. In hopes of grabbing the post-convention spotlight from Obama, McCain is considering naming his running mate in the few days between when the time Democrats leave Denver and when the Republicans begin their nominating convention in St. Paul, Minn.

McCain’s top contenders are said to include Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. Less traditional choices include former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, an abortion-rights supporter, and Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman, the Democratic vice presidential pick in 2000 who now is an independent.

Lieberman has been traveling with McCain on his campaign plane recently.

Pawlenty was gearing up for a weekend campaign swing in Ohio and Pennsylvania on behalf of McCain and said he might travel to Denver next week as a McCain surrogate during the Democratic National Convention.


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