Romney says Marco Rubio being vetted, dismisses reports that senator out of VP race - InfoNews

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Romney says Marco Rubio being vetted, dismisses reports that senator out of VP race

FILE - In this May 24, 2012, file photo, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., speaks just off the Senate floor on Capitol Hill in Washington, during a series of votes. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is staying mum on whether Rubio, a rising star in Republican politics, has been eliminated from his short list of potential running mates. The presumptive GOP presidential nominee told Fox News on Tuesday, June 19, 2012, that "a number of people are being vetted," but that only two people, himself and a senior adviser, know who's on the list. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)
June 19, 2012 - 9:39 PM

HOLLAND, Mich. - Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said Tuesday that his campaign is "thoroughly vetting" Marco Rubio as it searches for a running mate despite reports that the popular Cuban-American senator from Florida is not being considered.

ABC News and The Washington Post cited unnamed advisers in reporting that Rubio — a rising star in Republican politics and one of the most prominent Hispanic leaders serving in elected office — wasn't on the short list to run for vice-president alongside Romney in the November election.

"I can't imagine who such people are, but I can tell you this: They know nothing about the vice-presidential selection or evaluation process," Romney told reporters Tuesday evening outside a Michigan ice cream shop. "The story was entirely false. Marco Rubio is being thoroughly vetted as part of our process."

The statement was an unusual departure from the secrecy that has surrounded Romney's process in selecting a running mate. But it speaks, in part, to Rubio's political influence among the Republican base and Hispanic voters.

Earlier in the day, Romney had refused to comment on reports that Rubio, the son of Cuban immigrants, wasn't under consideration as a potential running mate.

The presumptive Republican nominee initially told Fox News only that "a number of people are being vetted" but that only two people — he and a senior adviser — know who's on the list. He repeated that statement Tuesday evening but clarified Rubio's status as a potential vice-presidential pick. Two Romney representatives would not say if or when Rubio had submitted paperwork for the vetting process.

The unanswered question was among several that lingered Tuesday as Romney's campaign sought to counter media reports suggesting that Romney had bypassed Rubio.

Less than a week ago, President Barack Obama won praise from Hispanic groups for announcing a plan allowing some young illegal immigrants to stay in the United States legally. Polls suggest that Hispanics overwhelmingly support Obama, but Romney and the Republican Party have been working to broaden their appeal among the growing demographic.

The vetting flap came on the day Rubio released a memoir and Romney's concluded a six-state bus tour.

Asked about the reports during an appearance on Fox News, Rubio refused to weigh in.

"I'm not commenting on the vice-presidential process," he said. "That's been basically what we've said the whole time because, out of respect for Gov. Romney, the last thing he needs is to have to be addressing questions about this because really the campaign's not about that."

Rubio's exclusion from Romney's short list would disappoint some conservative activists, but it would not come as a complete surprise.

He offers obvious political benefits as a Hispanic leader from Florida, a state that will be closely contested between Obama and Romney because its voters are neither reliably Democratic nor Republican. But Romney advisers have consistently said that Romney would give preference to those candidates with the greatest experience and ability to lead the nation on Day One. It's a reflection both of Romney's philosophy and lessons from the selection of former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin four years ago as the Republican running mate.

A former state lawmaker, Rubio, 41, has served in the Senate for less than two years. Romney did not address Rubio's credentials Tuesday.

Inexperience could work against other oft-mentioned candidates, including New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

A handful of more likely picks joined Romney on his bus tour in recent days as part of unofficial public tryouts for the No. 2 spot. Their interactions offered clues about who Romney might choose.

They included former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, Ohio Sen. Rob Portman and Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan.

Romney's Boston headquarters has been engaged for weeks in the secretive process of weighing the pros and cons of each potential pick.

With less than three months to go until the Republican National Convention where Romney's nomination will be formalized, the campaign has little time to waste as it meticulously prepares him to make one of his most important decisions. Advisers concede that Romney could make his pick earlier than right before the convention to help boost fundraising efforts.

Knowledge of the process has been limited to a few of Romney's highest-level aides. Information is on a "need-to-know" basis — and as far as those aides are concerned, there are few people inside the Boston headquarters who need to know, let alone reporters and other outsiders.

The process is so secret because it's so sensitive. A vice-presidential vetting is possibly the most intense background check in politics. Everything is fair game: voting records and the political past, to be sure, but also personal issues.

"I think everyone should take a deep breath," Rubio said Tuesday. "Here's the one thing everyone should know: Gov. Romney's going to make a great choice. In that I'm confident."

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Associated Press writers Kasie Hunt and Steve Peoples in Washington contributed to this report.

News from © The Associated Press, 2012
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