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Obama surrogates Bayh and Nunn get driven off their talking points

July 16, 2008 |  8:58 pm

No presidential campaign -- not even Barack Obama's, which seems able to print its own money -- can afford all the publicity to get its message out and, more important, planted in the minds of sufficient Former Georgia Senator Sam Nunn voters to ensure victory.

So they use surrogates -- famous people, usually fellow politicians -- who are trotted out to meet with news-hungry media with four or five specific positive talking points to make about the candidate in a kind of created news scenario.

Sometimes the media representatives buy the points. Sometimes, like today, they don't. Here comes Democratic dignitaries like Sen. Evan Bayh and ex-Sen. Sam Nunn today to talk up the military and security credentials of the freshman senator from Illinois.

But the media wanted to talk about the vice presidential running mate possibilities for each man. So with reluctance they did.

"I have never aspired to that office," said Nunn, who served in the Senate from Georgia for 25 years. "It is always nice to have your name mentioned -- it is an honor -- but I have no expectation of being offered any office, and I am not in any way sitting on the edge of a chair ready to go back into government."

Indiana senator Evan Bayh

Nunn is a perennial VP prospect because of his strong national security credentials -- not all that common in his party -- and his Southernness. But at 69, he's only 23 months younger than McCain, which might detract from Democrats' ability to drive that issue.

Bayh, whose father, Birch, ran unsuccessfully for the White House 32 years ago, is younger at 52 and supported Hillary Clinton. So adding him might reach out to some of her supporters.

"I love serving the people of Indiana," Bayh said. "And I think any questions about the vice presidential thing are understandable, and it’s good for my ego. But I should probably let Sen. Obama and his campaign address those kind of questions."

Still, typically, he didn't want to totally quash such an opportunity. As CNN's Alexander Mooney points out, Bayh was then asked if he was taking his name off the VP list like Sen. Jim Webb and Gov. Ted Strickland have done.

Bayh's coy answer: "I've got a plane to catch."

-- Andrew Malcolm

Photo credits: Diet Nagl / AFP-Getty Images (top); Office of Sen. Evan Bayh (bottom)