House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (search) has some advice for presumptive Democratic nominee John Kerry: Pick a running mate -- sooner rather than later.

The California Democrat suggested that Kerry make May 1 his deadline for deciding on a vice presidential candidate, well before the party's national convention in Boston in late July.

"It's very important to have another person on the field who is part of the presidential ticket," Pelosi told a round-table meeting of reporters Friday. "I don't want to see John Kerry debating with Dick Cheney in the press, I don't want to see him debating down. I want him to be debating the president of the United States."

Pelosi said she shared her views on timing last month with Jim Johnson, who is heading Kerry's vice presidential search.

"I think that it would be important to have a nominee by May 1," Pelosi said. Kerry's campaign has been vague about a timetable for the decision.

Pelosi also said that the selection of Republican Arizona Sen. John McCain (search) would be "a gesture to bring the country together," but she said she had no reason to think that would happen.

McCain set off speculation last month when he said he would consider an offer from Kerry to be his running mate, but he later said he did not want to be vice president on either party's ticket.

Pelosi was enthusiastic about the possibility of a woman vice presidential candidate (search), but said she didn't think that was likely. She praised Missouri Rep. Dick Gephardt, whom she supported for president before he abandoned his bid, as well as Sens. Bob Graham of Florida and John Edwards of North Carolina, two former presidential candidates.

But she ruled herself out, saying she's devoted to her work in the House.

Kerry should pick "whoever he's comfortable with," Pelosi said.