WASHINGTON, August 5 (AP)--As his "short list" appeared to idle at six names plus one big Question Mark, Al Gore shed some light on his thinking about the No. 2 spot on his Democratic presidential ticket, saying that gender, religion, or tenure in public office are not determinative.
The vice president spoke about what he's looking for in a running mate on the same day that he charged back onto the campaign trail with a new stump speech that is equal parts biting criticism and warm biography.
On Friday, Gore continued to dangle the possibility of a "wild card" running mate, whose selection he will announce Tuesday. He is trying to create some drama and deflate any bounce in the polls that rival George W. Bush might gain from his just-finished Republican National Convention.
Flying to Chicago after a weeklong vacation on the North Carolina shore, Gore told reporters that his list of contenders to share the ticket is "six, plus an out-of-the-box possibility" who has, he assured, been thoroughly vetted.
Of those six, a knowledgeable Democrat said the leading prospects are Sens. Evan Bayh of Indiana, John Edwards of North Carolina, John Kerry of Massachusetts, and Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut.
In an interview with ABC News, Gore was asked if Lieberman, an Orthodox Jew, would face as much or even more prejudice from some voters than a member of another minority group.
"I don't think those old distinctions and categories matter these days, the way they did in the past," Gore replied. "... I think that the day is coming when that'll be completely irrelevant in all of our politics."
And as for Edwards, who was first elected two years ago, Gore told ABC, "I don't think Washington experience is the only experience that's relevant to leadership and to this country."
Gore has often said his No. 1 requirement of a running mate is that he or she be ready "to become president at a moment's notice."
House Democratic leader Dick Gephardt and New Hampshire Gov. Jeanne Shaheen are also on Gore's short list. Gore told ABC that America is "of course" ready for a female vice president.