In a highly unusual move, Democrat presidential candidate Barack Obama's campaign manager has sent e-mails to supporters offering them the chance "to be the first to know his choice" of a vice presidential running mate.
The e-mail, distributed in the name of David Plouffe, says the Illinois senator "is about to make one of the most important decisions of this campaign — choosing a running mate.
"You have helped build this movement from the bottom up, and Barack wants you to be the first to know his choice.
"Sign up today to be the first to know."
Obama and Republican opponent John McCain have taken extreme care to ensure their choice of vice president remains secret until they announce the selection.
Political experts say the running mate choice in this election stands to be highly important to voters because of Obama's relatively thin national resume and McCain's age. Obama, 47, is serving his first term in the Senate while McCain would be 72 when the next president is inaugurated. That would make McCain the oldest first-term president in U.S. history.
The Obama e-mail promising to notify those who sign up to be notified "first" when the candidate is ready to announce his running-mate choice, appeared to be an effort to expand the campaign's electronic mailing list as it heads into the Democratic national convention that opens in two weeks in Denver, Colorado.
"Once you've signed up, please forward this e-mail to your friends, family, and co-workers to let them know about this special opportunity. No other campaign has done this before. You can be part of this important moment," said the Plouffe e-mail.
As the party convention approaches, Obama was still trying to douse embers of resentment among backers of Hillary Rodham Clinton and said the New York senator will have top billing on the second night of the Democratic gathering.
Obama's campaign called the former first lady, who nearly upended Obama's bid for the Democratic nomination in an extended and often bitter primary season, "a champion for working families and one of the most effective and empathetic voices in the country today." She will speak on Tuesday, Aug. 26 — the 88th anniversary of U.S. women's right to vote.
There still was no word on whether Clinton would seek a roll call vote for her candidacy as a means of allowing her large bloc of delegates a "cathartic" expression of support for the former first lady before falling in line behind Obama. Clinton's husband, former President Bill Clinton, who has offered only tepid support for Obama, was not listed in the campaign's news release, although it has said he would speak on the third night of the convention.
The headliner on that night, the campaign said Sunday, would be Obama's as-yet-unannounced vice presidential selection.
Obama is expected to become the party's first black presidential nominee on the fourth and final night as the convention moves from the indoor Pepsi Arena to a bigger outdoor venue at Invesco Field at Denver's Mile High stadium, where the city's NFL football team plays. That night is the 45th anniversary of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech.
Obama is on vacation visiting his grandmother in his birth state of Hawaii, and McCain was campaigning at a Pennsylvania factory Monday. He had dinner Sunday night with the state's former Gov. Tom Ridge, who has been mentioned as a McCain vice presidential choice.
On Sunday, McCain's campaign manager kept up the attack in the candidate's absence, saying on a political talk show that it was Obama, not the four-term Arizona senator, who first began negative campaigning. McCain has tried to portray Obama as an empty celebrity who gets more than his share of media coverage.
"Obama started negative campaigning on John McCain long before we started punching back, and I think a lot of our effort is really to get back into this game, try and galvanize some of the public attention back onto this race, make sure everybody understands there's two people in this race, not just one, and I think we've been successful in doing that," Rick Davis said on Fox television without elaboration.
The Obama campaign, meantime, was pushing out a new television ad that attempts to reverse McCain attacks on him as an empty celebrity.
"For decades, he's been Washington's biggest celebrity," the announcer says, cutting to a "Saturday Night Live" introduction of McCain during an appearance on the show, a popular late night comedy program that is heavy with political satire.
The ad then shows McCain hugging President George W. Bush.
"As Washington embraced him, John McCain hugged right back," the spot says before showing video of McCain with lobbyists, aides and Bush. "The lobbyists — running his low road campaign. The money — billions in tax breaks for oil and drug companies, but almost nothing for families like yours. Lurching to the right, then the left, the old Washington dance, whatever it takes. John McCain. A Washington celebrity playing the same old Washington games."