Clinton 'open' to vice presidency as Obama closes in

Democratic White House hopeful Hillary Clinton has told New York lawmakers she would be open to the job of vice president, as rival Barack Obama edged closer to clinching the party's nomination.

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Mrs Clinton said “that she would be open to the VP slot,” a staffer who had knowledge of the conference call, which took place on the final day of the epic primary election battle, said.

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A second Congressional source confirmed the New York senator and former first lady had discussed the idea with fellow legislators.

“It's pretty clear she's open to it,” the source said. “She sounded open to it. She genuinely wants to be helpful.”

Ms Clinton's campaign released a statement acknowledging the discussion had taken place but insisting that the mention of the vice presidency was nothing new.

Joint Obama-Clinton ticket

“Today on a conference call with New York legislators, Senator Clinton was asked whether she was open to the idea of running as vice president and repeated what she has said before,” it said.

“She would do whatever she could to ensure that Democrats take the White House back and defeat [Republican presumptive nominee] John McCain.”

Congressional sources said the topic came up in response to a question by Congresswoman Nydia Velasquez, a Clinton backer, who expressed concern that without a joint Clinton-Obama ticket, the party could lose crucial Hispanic swing voters.

Mr Obama has moved to within 12 delegates of the winning post of 2,118 delegates needed to clinch the party's nomination, his campaign said, announcing the latest in a flow of “superdelegates,” or party luminaries who may vote as they choose, to his side.

A total of 31 delegates were available in Tuesday's two primaries in South Dakota and Montana, where Mr Obama was expected to easily accumulate enough support to push him over the “magic number” and defeat Ms Clinton.

Persistent divisions

James Clyburn, a Democratic Congressman from South Carolina and House majority whip who has endorsed Mr Obama, said the decision about a suitable vice president would fall to the Illinois senator.

“I think that's something that Senator Obama is going to make up his mind about. I think the two of them need to sit down and think about what all can factor into this. I think they're supposed to meet very soon,” he told CNN.

“We need to take a look at all of the assets and the liabilities of such a ticket, and hopefully, not be emotional about it but very, very political about what is best for our party, what is best for our nation and which ticket will be better for our candidate to run on.”

Exit polls in South Dakota showed that 55 percent of Democrats believed Mr Obama should pick Ms Clinton as his running mate if he wins the party nod, while 41 percent said they did not.

But when only Obama supporters were sampled, 56 percent said they did not want to see Ms Clinton on his ticket, in a sign of the persistent divisions within the Democratic party after the marathon 17-month primary race.