WASHINGTON (CNN) — After months of speculation and a highly secretive selection process, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry, has chosen his colleague Sen. John Edwards as his running mate for the 2004 presidential election, sources close to the campaign say.
Kerry is expected to make an official announcement at a rally in downtown Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, at 9 a.m. ET.
One source described Kerry, who has stressed secrecy throughout the vice presidential search process, as “adamant” that he deliver the news, rather than having it break through the media.
A Democratic official familiar with the planning, who spoke on condition of anonymity — said the plan called for Kerry to call his choice, as well as the other finalists who were not picked, before the announcement
The plan calls for the vice presidential pick to be involved in campaign events later in the day, the source said, declining to be more specific. CNN.com Special Report: America Votes 2004 Veep Contenders
After the rally, Kerry’s schedule calls for speeches to two groups that are critical players in Democratic presidential politics — black ministers and the National Education Association, the nation’s largest teachers union.
However, a source involved in the planning ruled out Kerry’s running mate hooking up with him at the African Methodist Episcopal Church convention in Indianapolis.
Memo outlines ‘recommended conduct’
In anticipation of a VP announcement, the Kerry campaign has distributed a memo to the Democratic National Committee and to Democratic governors and members of Congress outlining “recommended conduct” for the days after Kerry’s revelation, according to Democratic officials.
The memo asks officials and officeholders to decline all interviews on the first day of the announcement so that the only Democratic voices heard will be those of Kerry and his running mate, the officials said.
The memo urges prominent Democrats to go out in force on the second day to rebut expected GOP attacks on his choice, according to the officials.
It was possible that the campaign’s announced schedule would be changed Tuesday if the vice presidential pick is announced.
Throughout the process, aides have stressed that there would be a surprise or unique wrinkle to the announcement. It would be highly unusual for a presidential nominee to announce his choice to join the ticket without that choice at his side.
Kerry campaign officials announced last week he will use another unique tactic to get the word out on his No. 2 pick — sending the news out via e-mail to campaign supporters and contributors.
Most of the speculation about Kerry’s running mate has centered on Edwards, Rep. Dick Gephardt of Missouri and Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, though a handful of other potential candidates has also been approached by his campaign.
According to several Democratic sources, Edwards interrupted his family vacation at Walt Disney World last Thursday to come to Washington for a private meeting with Kerry, without even telling many members of his own staff. Sources said the meeting went extremely well and that Edwards’ stock is rising with Kerry.
Some Democrats, including senior campaign aides not directly involved in the search process, consider this significant because it was at least his second face-to-face discussion with Kerry about the prospect of joining the Democratic ticket. Others, however, said it is possible Kerry had additional meetings with other candidates.
Asked if Edwards had left Florida last week, his spokeswoman, Kim Ruby, declined to comment.
Edwards, who finished second to Kerry in the Democratic presidential race, traveled to Boston to appear at two Kerry fund-raisers Monday and was returning to Washington after those events.
Vilsack campaigns with Kerry
Vilsack, who spent part of the weekend with Kerry during a campaign swing through the Midwest, arrived Monday in Ocean City, New Jersey — a beach community Vilsack has been coming to for vacation since his childhood in Pittsburgh — with his wife, Christie.
Two aides are traveling with Vilsack — John Lapp, who ran his re-election campaign in 2002, and Jerry Crawford, a longtime friend and fellow lawyer who ran Kerry’s Iowa campaign this year.
The aides say that the Kerry campaign knows how to reach Vilsack in Ocean City.
“Tom Vilsack looks forward to a strong Democratic ticket that’s united against George Bush and Dick Cheney,” Lapp said.
“John Kerry has a tremendous record, agenda, and set of issues to move this country forward on the economy, national security, and health care, and Tom Vilsack looks forward to the challenges ahead.”
Gephardt told reporters Monday afternoon that neither he nor his staff has heard anything from Kerry about the vice presidential pick. Later, emerging from a Washington movie theater, he said he had “no idea” about Kerry’s plans for announcing a running mate.
“I have great faith in Senator Kerry, and whoever he picks, I’m for it,” he said.
The Democrats meet in Boston for their nominating convention at the end of this month. If Kerry names a running mate before July 19, the Democratic ticket would be set more than a week before the start of the convention — a record for either party. (Interactive: CNN.com’s Special Report: America Votes 2004 Election Calendar)
CNN’s Kelly Wallace, Kevin Bohn, Paul Courson, Sasha Johnson, John Mercurio, Steve Turnham and Phil Hirschkorn contributed to this report.