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Hold on! Hillary could still be VP, Obama says, but...

July 11, 2008 | 10:44 pm

Barack Obama's presidential campaign hasn't said much about it, but this whole unity thing with the die-hard supporters of Hillary Clinton is proving more difficult to accomplish than envisioned.

She's urged her donors to support Obama and he's urged his supporters to help erase her campaign debt, except when he forgets.

But in between public engagements Obama is apparently reaching out to some recalcitrant Clinton backers with sympathetic phone calls during which he at least mentions that the New York senator he defeated is actually on his list of running mates.

This is one of those political claims that really can't beHillary Clinton and Barack Obama in Unity, NH at their first unity appearance verified and may be aimed more at soothing ruffled feathers for now. In a few weeks it could disappear in a political puff, leaving no trace but having accomplished its calming summertime purpose.

A top former Clinton aide, Howard Wolfson, said on Fox News yesterday that he knew of no VP vetting process underway concerning his ex-boss.

But The Times' Peter Nicholas is reporting on this website tonight that Obama has told at least one unhappy Hillary supporter that his former opponent is indeed on his VP list.

Jill Iscol, a loyal Democratic donor and ardent Clinton backer, said Obama made that statement when she raised the Clinton VP issue in a recent phone call by saying Hillary was his best choice.

But, Iscol said, Obama added that he was also pondering a "complication" to that scenario.

You'll never guess what that complication is. Or, rather, who it is. Yup, Bill Clinton. Once a president, always a president, Iscol quoted Obama as saying, even when the word "former" comes before the word "president."

Many political observers and a lot of Clinton supporters think adding Hillary to the ticket would be the sure-fire best way to unify the party for the Nov. 4 general election. But, given the headstrong ex-president who's not really seemed all that publicly pleased about the Obama nomination, it could also be the sure-fire best way to divide an Obama administration.

The White House might seem a little crowded with one new president, one former president and one thought-she-oughta-be-president. Peter's detailed story on the unfolding confidential vice presidential discussions is here.

--Andrew Malcolm

Photo credit: Mario Tama / Getty Images