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McCain, campaigning with Florida governor, is noncommittal on veep choice
McCain 2008 FLGH103 5107727
Republican nominee-in-waiting, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., speaks during a campaign stop at Howley's Restaurant, Thursday, March 6, 2008 in West Palm Beach, Fla. - photo by Associated Press
    WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Republican John McCain praised Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, a potential running mate, as they campaigned together Thursday, although he sidestepped questions about a vice presidential choice.
    During his first campaign appearance since clinching the GOP presidential nomination, McCain said he has not even begun looking at vice presidential candidates.
    ‘‘You know, obviously, we have just begun that process, and we, in fact, have not even outlined how we’re going to go about this,’’ McCain said at a news conference after he and Crist shook hands with people at a local diner. ‘‘We’re looking at how the process was conducted by other candidates and nominees of their party.
    ‘‘But I know one thing about Governor Crist,’’ he added. ‘‘And that is that he is a great governor. He does a great job. And I think that ... there are many ways for him to serve the country.’’
    As soon as McCain wrapped up the Republican presidential nomination Tuesday with victories in Texas and Ohio, attention turned to his running mate. McCain, who is 71, has said his foremost concern is finding someone capable of serving in his place.
    He talked with President Bush about making that choice over hotdogs when they lunched Wednesday at the White House.
    As he told reporters later, Bush joked, ‘‘You know, you want to be careful who you select to run it.’’ That’s because Vice President Cheney headed up the running-mate search for Bush, who ultimately chose Cheney.
    McCain, who plans to mix campaign appearances with fundraising over the next week, also told reporters he wants to talk with people who have been involved with such a process before. Specifically, he mentioned A.B. Culvahouse, who served as counsel to President Ronald Reagan from 1987 to 1989, as someone he wanted to speak with.
    Crist, 51, is among more than a half-dozen politicians mentioned as a potential running mate. His last-minute endorsement of McCain is credited with helping McCain win the pivotal Florida primary election on Jan. 29. He won election last year to serve as governor of Florida, a state that will be a battleground in the November general election.
    ‘‘The process is really open,’’ McCain said of his search. ‘‘But I know that Governor Crist will continue to serve this country in many respects in the future. He’s still a very young man.’’
    Also being talked about as possible running mates for McCain are Govs. Mark Sanford of South Carolina, Sarah Palin of Alaska, Jon Huntsman Jr. of Utah, Haley Barbour of Mississippi and Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota.
    Also Thursday, McCain defended the country of Colombia, which is in the midst of the worst diplomatic standoff in years with Venezuela. Venezuela and Ecuador have each sent thousands of soldiers to their borders with Colombia.
    The Bush administration is seeking a diplomatic solution. McCain said the U.S. would come to the aid of Colombia if it were invaded but quickly said he didn’t see that ever happening.
    ‘‘Obviously, the United States of America supports the government of Colombia and would assist if it were invaded, but very frankly, I don’t see that transpiring,’’ McCain said. ‘‘I think it’s not going to happen.’’

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