And the shortlist dwindles ... or does it?

Looking for clues about Barack Obama's running mate in the schedule of speakers at the Democratic convention may be fruitless.

Published August 14, 2008 9:32PM (EDT)

It's probably time to stop looking for tea leaves in the Democratic convention speaking schedule, and start assuming things will just have to change a little bit whenever Barack Obama announces (sorry, texts) his vice-presidential pick.

Convention organizers just announced the lineup for Wednesday night's speeches. That particular night has two purposes -- one, to talk about national security, and two, to let Obama's running mate debut on prime-time television.

But the warm-up acts for the vice-presidential nominee include both Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh and Delaware Sen. Joe Biden, both believed to be on the shortlist for the No. 2 spot. Add in the fact that Democrats have already announced that other speakers will include Hillary Clinton, Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and a bunch of other possible running mates, and you have to wonder who would be left to pick if the eventual nominee isn't already on the schedule.

Actually, there are a few interesting people who don't have speaking slots yet -- like Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Rhode Island Sen. Jack Reed and John Kerry. But there's still a whole Thursday night program to fill; soon enough, most of those folks will probably be penciled in, too.

These mundane press releases about which preapproved speech will come when may not really prove much of a guide to whose fortunes are rising or falling (though my friend Jay Newton-Small seems to think they're worth tracking). After all, if part of the goal of keeping the vice-presidential pick close to the vest is to dominate the news cycle when you finally announce who it is, why would Obama's team dribble out little clues here and there, instead of just tinkering with the speech schedule in Denver after the fact?

By Mike Madden

Mike Madden is Salon's Washington correspondent. A complete listing of his articles is here. Follow him on Twitter here.

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