CHICAGO U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama said on Wednesday his top choice for running mate would be someone who would offer sound advice and "tell me where he or she thinks I'm wrong."
Obama has kept his search for a vice presidential candidate close to the vest.
He has named Caroline Kennedy, daughter of the late President John F. Kennedy, and former Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder to help guide the search. Within his campaign, only a small circle of advisers is consulting with him on the subject.
Many political analysts believe the 46-year-old first-term Illinois senator may focus on someone with a lengthy foreign policy resume to lend more heft to his ticket. Obama is running in the November election against Republican Sen. John McCain, a Vietnam War hero and former prisoner of war who has been a leading voice in the Senate on national security.
Obama said first and foremost was the need to find someone ready to step into the Oval Office right away should that be necessary.
"I want somebody who can be a good president if anything happened to me," Obama told a news conference in Chicago. "I want somebody who can be a good adviser and counsel to me and tell me where he or she thinks I'm wrong, not just on national security policy but on domestic policy as well."
Among the names that have circulated for the No. 2 slot on Obama's ticket are Virginia Sen. Jim Webb, a Vietnam veteran and former secretary of the Navy, Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh and Obama's former rival, New York Sen. Hillary Clinton.
Some Clinton supporters believe Obama should choose her to create a "dream ticket" that would stir enthusiasm among both candidates' bases of support.
A joint campaign trip planned for Friday in Unity, New Hampshire, by Clinton and Obama may spur more talk of her possibly joining the ticket. But many analysts think Clinton, a former first lady closely associated with her husband Bill Clinton's presidency, may be an unlikely choice for Obama, who is running on a message of bringing change.
DISMISSES NADER COMMENTS
At the news conference, Obama also dismissed racially charged comments by consumer activist Ralph Nader, who is running for the White House as an independent.
In an interview with the Rocky Mountain News, Nader accused Obama, who would be the first black president, of ignoring issues affecting the poor and of trying to "talk white."
"First of all, what's clear is Ralph Nader hasn't been paying attention to my speeches. Because all the issues that he talked about, whether it's predatory lending or the housing foreclosures are issues that ... I've devoted multiple speeches, town hall meetings to, throughout this campaign," Obama said.
"He's somebody who is trying to get attention and whose campaign hasn't gotten any traction," Obama said. "So what better way to get some traction than to make an inflammatory statement like the one that he made."
Obama also defended his decision to reject public financing for his campaign. Critics have accused him of going back on his word and have said the decision runs counter to his pledge to bring a new kind of politics to Washington.
Obama said he felt the public finance system was "broken" because of the ability of outside groups to raise money.
"I still want to see if we can fix it," Obama said, adding that bringing transparency to the fundraising process was one way to improve it.
(Editing by Peter Cooney)