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Over the last few weeks, Sen. Kerry has had many more face-to-face meetings with potential picks than the press has reported.

One such meeting, several well-informed sources say, took place last Thursday night.

Kerry was in his home in Georgetown, and at around 10:30 pm, the last reporter staking him out -- someone from ABC News -- appeared to leave for the night.

Our sources say that Kerry and his Secret Service agents then went the very short distance to the nearby home of former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. Albright is a supporter of Kerry and has her office now in the same office building in Washington as the Kerry campaign.

At Albright's house late Thursday night, Kerry had a meeting with just a small group of people -- one of whom, our sources say, seemed to be the person Kerry at that moment planned to pick as his running mate.

Although Kerry said as recently as yesterday that he has not made a decision, our sources believe that this meeting might have served as the final face-to-face session the future running mates will have before announcement day, which could be as soon as this Tuesday.

Of the three potential picks whose advisers have confirmed have handed over reams of background information and believe themselves to be still in the running , there's only one we think was in DC that night -- Dick Gephardt. Tom Vilsack's staff says he was in Iowa and John Edwards, like many great Americans, was at Disney World with his family.

Other options -- Sen. Joseph Biden, former Defense Secretary Bill Cohen, well, we are still checking to pin down where they were on Thursday night.

Of course, Sen. Kerry could have changed whatever decision he might have made since last Thursday, and it is possible he has sent mixed signals (purposefully or not) to his advisers.

The Kerry campaign had no comment on this.

In other veepstakes news, sources tell us that the Bush campaign is considering running very soon a TV ad showing John McCain speaking in support of President Bush's re-election and there is talk it might run timed to Sen. Kerry's announcement of a running mate.

It is not clear if McCain's words come from a camera shoot done specifically for the ad or are lifted from a recent joint Bush-McCain appearance, such as in Reno, Nev., when the Arizona Senator gave an emotional introduction for Bush in which the former Vietnam war prisoner spoke of the "miserable business" of war and "the sublime love of those who sacrifice everything on our behalf."

McCain went on to say "The man I introduce to you today understands all this and understands it very, very well. He heard the call to action on that terrible morning in September and summoned the rest of us to this long and difficult task. He has led this country with moral clarity about the stakes involved and with firm resolve to achieve unconditional victory."

Since the flurry several weeks ago when it was confirmed that Kerry and McCain had had several talks about joining up as a bipartisan ticket, multiple sources in both parties have made it clear that Kerry took these entreaties very, very seriously and was fascinated by the idea of the pairing.

Clearly, the Bush campaign is looking to strangle Kerry's actual pick in the cradle by making whomever he chooses look second-best to McCain. This is as good a time as any, it seems, for the Bush campaign to try to take advantage of McCain's appeal to centrist and independent voters.

It is also interesting to Note that if such an ad runs, it will be giving McCain a more prominent role in Bush advertising than Bush's actual running mate -- Dick Cheney -- has had.

For more on both of these impacting stories, watch "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" Sunday morning.


Marc Sandalow has a nice overview of the whole veepstakes shebang. LINK

Some guy named Richard L. Berke Notes that political surprises . . . often don't. Way to throw the kitchen sink in there, RLB! LINK

Be sure to read what Sen. Breaux says.

John Edwards: veep candidate or private citizen? LINK

Jo Mannies of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says that one of the rationales Gephardt backers use in touting his candidacy is his connection to the up-for-grabs St. Louis County. LINK

The best of the rest:

Bob Novak's weekend round-up, as always, showcases his Teamster obsession. LINK

In an op-ed in the Washington Post, John Kerry tries to mix his natural-born, Biden-infused realism with forward-looking optimism, i.e., "Our foreign policy has achieved greatness only when it has combined realism and idealism." LINK

"The missing ingredient in this quest so far is a political accommodation among Iraqis. Each Iraqi group -- the Kurds, the Shiites and the Sunnis -- has to feel it will have safety and a fair share in Iraq's future. Yes, let the Iraqis move forward with their schedule for elections and the writing of a constitution, but all must realize that the results of these elections and the constitution will hold only if the parties know they can protect their basic interests."

The Boston Globe's Glen Johnson on Kerry's change of heart about the New England dairy compact. LINK

The Washington Post's Mike Allen reports "Vice President Cheney attacked Sen. John F. Kerry on Saturday for past votes against a ban on flag burning, as the Bush-Cheney campaign opened a broad assault on the Democrat's record on social issues." LINK

More: LINK and LINK and LINK

The New York Times' Robin Toner Notes "Sen. Kerry came to the Gunslick Trap Club here on Saturday to try to break a stereotype that is politically dangerous in rural America: that a northeastern Democrat running for president must be antigun." LINK

More: LINK and LINK

The New York Times' James Dao overviews Ohio: LINK

The Washington Post's Dan Balz on the Democratic platform: LINK

--It was written with the heavy influence of Kerry's campaign. --It rebukes pre-emption as a doctrine (but not as an option) but acknowledges disagreement about whether Iraq was worth fighting for.

--It opposes the Federal Marriage Amendment. --It has little to say about Social Security and Medicare.

The Los Angeles Times' Brownstein has lots to say about the platform: LINK

Brownstein also Notes in a separate front-page story that "MoveOn is building what may be the most systematic effort to enlist celebrities in liberal causes in several years." Its ads are among the most jarring and news-making in the business. At the same time, it wants to keep its grassroots flavor. LINK

Assuredly, some one from the RNC will look into the companies the DNCC has chosen for the balloon drops...and assuredly, someone from the Sefl/Miner shop already has. LINK

The Washington Post's David Maraniss, the Clinton biographer, on the Clinton autobiography. LINK

The New York Times' Pam Belluck questions "wouldn't the Democratic mayor of the city hosting the Democratic National Convention want to make nice with the Democratic presidential candidate, especially when the candidate is a hometown boy?" LINK

"Mr. Kerry would have had a tough time crossing a picket line, particularly one supported by firefighters, who have given Mr. Kerry strong support. But Mr. Menino, feeling undercut in his union fight and embarrassed in his own front yard, was miffed."

The New York Times' Louis Uchitelle Notes "for months Senator John Kerry has presented himself as a centrist on economic policy, a New Democrat directly out of the Clinton mold," "but centrism is an easier position to maintain when the economy is in trouble, as it seemed to be in the early days of the campaign."

The Kerry and Bush campaigns are already aggressively campaigning in Florida; Rick Maese of the Orlando Sentinel reports they're already prepping for a photo finish. LINK

TODAY'S SCHEDULE (all times ET):

—10:06 am: 12:25 pm: Vice President Cheney attends the Soldiers and Sailors National Military Museum and Memorial, Pittsburgh, Pa.

—12:30 pm: Sen. John Kerry attends an Independence Day Parade, Cascade, Iowa

—1:00 pm: President Bush speaks at a Fourth of July celebration, Charleston, W.Va. —4:00 pm: Sen. Kerry attends a 4th of July Barbeque, Independence, Iowa. —6:05 pm: Vice President Cheney throws out the first pitch at Blair County Baseball Park, Altoona, Pa. —9:30 pm: Sen. Kerry attends a 4th of July Celebration at the National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library, Cedar Rapids, Iowa. —11:00 am: Sen. Kerry departs Cedar Rapids for Pittsburgh, Pa.