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TSONGAS, KERRY ARE ON LIST OF POSSIBLE RUNNING MATES

Two Democrats who battled Bill Clinton for the presidential nomination and a few who explored the idea are among those being mentioned as potential running mates for the Arkansas governor.

Clinton, who has virtually locked up the Democratic nomination, has almost four months to make up his mind.He refused Sunday "to play the vice presidential game" in tossing possible names about.

But he outlined his requirements for a running mate; among them a candidate who would "be able to be a good president on the first day if I had a heart attack right after inauguration. You'd have to be able to complement the strengths and reinforce the shortcomings of the administration to be part of the team," Clinton said on NBC-TV's "Meet the Press."

Some names are already surfacing, including former Massachusetts Sen. Paul Tsongas and Nebraska Sen. Bob Kerrey, both of whom recently quit the presidential race.

Other possible candidates include New Jersey Sen. Bill Bradley, a one-time star of the New York Knicks pro basketball team, and House Majority Leader Richard Gephardt of Missouri, who ran for the 1988 presidential nomination.

Long shots include freshman Sen. Harris Wofford of Pennsylvania and Gen. Colin Powell, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Powell, who is black, has climbed the power ladder under Republicans, but no law would keep him off the Democratic ticket. His presence could increase black registration and would add military credentials, as would Kerrey's.

Powell also was mentioned as a possible running mate for President Bush should he dump Vice President Dan Quayle, but thus far has called himself "non-political" and shown no interest in such a race.

A top Clinton aide, James Carville, masterminded Wofford's race against Attorney General Dick Thornburgh for the Pennsylvania Senate seat.

Carville says it's too early to pick a vice presidential candidate.

"We've been operating under the assumption that you have to catch the ball before you can throw it," Carville said. "Picking a vice president is part of throwing the ball. We haven't caught it yet."

Clinton may shop for a running mate who would give him regional balance or someone who would reassure Democratic liberals. Or simply someone who would bring no liabilities to the ticket.

Whoever Clinton's running mate is, the selection probably won't become much of an issue because voters tend to look only at the top of the ticket, says Democratic pollster Claibourne Darden.