ORLANDO - Agence France-Presse

Speculation about Barack Obama's vice presidential nominee hit new heights as a report said he could reveal his choice for a number two as early as today.
The New York Times reported the presumptive Democratic nominee had not yet notified his prospective running mate, but was focusing mainly on Virginia Governor Tim Kaine, Indiana Senator Evan Bayh and foreign policy expert Senator Joseph Biden.
Fresh buzz about Obama's intentions came as the Democratic White House hopeful visited veterans yesterday at an annual convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Orlando, and exactly a week before the Democratic nominating convention opens in Denver, Colorado.
Running mate anticipation was also building on the Republican side, as the Politico website and Fox News said the party's presumptive nominee John McCain would name his running mate on August 29, the day after Obama's acceptance speech before 70,000 people in Denver.
The date, if confirmed, would allow McCain to limit Obama's post convention news coverage, mark his own 72nd birthday, and build up some steam ahead of the Republican convention, in St. Paul, Minnesota beginning on September 1.
Possible picks:
The Times, in a report on its website, cited unnamed Obama advisers as saying he reached his decision last week while on vacation on Hawaii, and the campaign was readying an elaborate rollout for his selection.
The campaign has said Obama will first inform his grass roots network of supporters about the pick in an unprecedented email and text message blitz. He was then expected to launch a cross-country tour with his new sidekick.
The paper cited Obama aides as saying the announcement would come at the earliest early today, and no later than Friday.
Of the three possible picks cited by the Times, Kaine would boost Obama's hopes of winning battleground state Virginia. He has appeal with white working class Democratic voters, but lacks foreign policy experience.
Biden, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations committee, would compensate for Obama's inexperience on national security and has just returned from Georgia and issued a stiff condemnation of Russia's actions in its showdown with the Tblisi government.
Bayh, popular in his home battleground state of Indiana, also has some foreign policy expertise, and might be a unity pick, having been an firm ally of Obama's vanquished Democratic foe Hillary Clinton.
The former first lady herself appeared to be a rank outsider, despite hopes of some of her supporters that she would find a place on the ticket.
There was no immediate comment on the Times report from the Obama campaign.
Obama on Monday berated McCain as an out-of-touch economic illiterate, hardening his attacks in the pre-convention run up.
At a rally in a sweltering high school gymnasium here, Obama mocked McCain for remarking at a weekend forum with religious leader Rick Warren that only those earning five million dollars a year were really rich.
Obama noted McCain's proud boast that he always put the country rather than politics first, a line that the Republican has used to lambast his opponent over the war in Iraq.
"But I have to say it's not an example of putting country first when you say (President) George Bush's economic policies have shown 'great progress'," he said, also noting that McCain says Obama would be a "disaster" for the economy.
"Mr. McCain, let me explain to you, the economic disaster is happening right now. Maybe you haven't noticed," Obama said.
Speaking at the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in Florida Monday, McCain said meanwhile that while Obama had enough "ambition to be president," he seemed to lack the "judgment to be the next commander in chief."
"In matters of national security, good judgment will be at a premium in the term of the next president -- as we were all reminded 10 days ago by events in the nation of Georgia," the Republican said in Florida.
McCain also highlighted his opponent's early opposition to a troop surge strategy in Iraq, which Republicans, the U.S. military and the White House credit with quelling violence.
"It was a moment when political self-interest and the national interest parted ways," McCain told the annual convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Orlando, Florida."Even in retrospect, (Obama) would chose the path of retreat and failure for America, over the path of success and victory."