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Veepstakes ‘scoop’ served

We knew Barack Obama would have trouble winning over Hillary Rodham Clinton loyalists in places like Columbus, Ohio, and Morgantown, W.Va., and the middle of Pennsylvania where, according to Obama, all those bitter, small-town gun owners live. But who would have thought there’d be an issue in Stockholm?

The Scandinavia problem surfaced when a Democratic political strategist offered an analysis of his party’s vice presidential sweepstakes Thursday night to the Democrats Abroad organization in Sweden’s capital.

Kevin Lampe said he didn’t believe Obama would choose Clinton or, for that matter, any other woman as his running mate. Lampe’s reasoning, according to folks who attended the dinner, was that it would antagonize Clinton and her supporters if Obama passed her over and instead picked another woman. (As if Clinton and her supporters weren’t already antagonized by simply losing.)

His comments caused a good measure of consternation on both sides of the Atlantic, partly because dinner guests thought they were getting the word from a full-fledged member of Team Obama. The invitation identified Lampe as a “campaign advisor.”

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But in an interview Friday, Lampe denied he was working for the Obama campaign -- a point confirmed by the presumptive Democratic nominee’s press office. And Lampe emphasized that he has no special insight into Obama’s thinking.

“I’m playing the guessing game like everyone else,” he said.

Still, it would be easy to think that Lampe might have the inside scoop. A picture on his business website shows him talking to Michelle and Barack Obama in 2004, just before Obama delivered his heralded speech at the Democratic National Convention in Boston. In the photo, Obama has his hand on Lampe’s shoulder, which might mean something. Then again, maybe Lampe had some lint that needed removing.

Lampe, who has an office in Chicago, said he has known Obama since before the Illinois lawyer was elected to the state Senate in 1996.

The Obama campaign advised against reading anything into what’s being said about the selection of a running mate. Said Bill Burton, an Obama spokesman: “The people who know anything about the vice presidential process on our campaign are not talking about it.”

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Gay marriage less an issue: Rove

For many voters, it’s an article of faith that political consultant Karl Rove orchestrated the 2004 ballot fight over same-sex marriage to help push conservatives to the polls. In the process, the theory goes, those voters also helped President Bush win reelection.

Rove takes a somewhat different view. He says backers of same-sex marriage started the fight by filing lawsuits and winning a Supreme Court decision in Massachusetts. Whatever his role was four years ago, Rove predicted in an interview that the issue would be less important in 2008.

“It has a lower profile, but it will be an issue in people’s minds,” Rove said. “The bigger issues will be the economy, terrorism, healthcare, energy.”

In November, three states -- Arizona, California and Florida -- will vote on the issue. Whether it will have an effect on the presidential contest remains to be seen.

Arizona almost certainly will vote for its favorite son, McCain. California is likely solid for Obama. And Florida is viewed as a swing state.

Florida Gov. Charlie Crist and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, both of whom are backing McCain, have distanced themselves from the propositions dealing with same-sex marriage (it’s called Proposition 8 on California’s Nov. 4 ballot), saying there are more important issues to consider.

Rove said that’s true -- to a point. He said the question could weigh in the minds of some people in what he called the “complicated algorithms” that determine how they vote.

“Values always play a role in a campaign,” he said.

There is disagreement over whether same-sex marriage -- or any divisive issue -- draws voters to the polls in a presidential election year. Most experts agree that voters turn out to vote for a president, not a state ballot measure.

But there is some evidence that the same-sex marriage measure helped in the swing state of Ohio, one of 11 states in the 2004 general election where voters cast ballots on definition-of-marriage measures. Bush sealed his reelection by winning narrowly in Ohio over Massachusetts Sen. John F. Kerry.

As happened in 2004, Rove noted, the 2008 candidates have staked out their positions.

McCain, like Bush, supports the ballot measures that ban same-sex marriage. Obama, like Kerry, opposes the measures, but also opposes same-sex marriage.

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Oprah to lie low at convention

Oprah Winfrey, one of the nation’s best-known celebrities who knows it, has decided to skip the spotlight at her man Obama’s big acceptance speech on the Denver football field during the Democratic National Convention.

The TV talk show diva is reportedly afraid she’d draw away some of the natural luminescence of his nomination event that officially starts the general election campaign against John McCain, who is to be nominated at the Republican National Convention a week later in St. Paul, Minn.

Oh, Winfrey will surely be there, according to her friend Gayle King. But the billionaire boss of a media empire intends to blend in with the expected crowd of more than 70,000. (Good luck with the blending part.)

According to King, she wants to leave the stage to her fellow Illinoisan, whom she campaigned for so vigorously during the early primary season. Her hosting a Hollywood fundraiser at her California home, and her celebrity involvement in packed Obama rallies in Iowa and South Carolina, which he won, and New Hampshire, which he lost, helped raise millions of dollars and attract priceless publicity as well as thousands of newly motivated campaign volunteers.

But Winfrey’s sudden shyness in Denver may also have to do with the fact that she and her No. 1 show apparently paid a price in popularity for taking such a prominent political stance starting last year.

Many of her female fans, who have made her rich and successful over the years, apparently disagreed with her decision to get involved in partisan politics for the first time.

Winfrey still plans to be on Denver’s Invesco Field at Mile High when Obama accepts the nomination Aug. 28, King told “Entertainment Tonight,” but won’t have a stage role.

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Excerpted from The Times’ political blog Top of the Ticket, at www.latimes.com/topofthe ticket. Times staff writers Scott Martelle, Dan Morain and Peter Nicholas also contributed to the blog.


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