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 Florida senator is not being considered.
ABC News and the Washington Post had cited unnamed advisers in reporting earlier Tuesday that Rubio, R-Fla., wasnt on the short list for the No. 2 spot on the GOP ticket.
I cant imagine who such people are, but I can tell you this: They know nothing about the vice presidential selection or evaluation process, Romney said outside a Michigan ice cream shop. The story was entirely false. Marco Rubio is being thoroughly vetted as part of our process.
Earlier in the day, Romney had declined to comment on reports that Rubio, a rising star in Republican politics, wasnt under consideration as a potential running mate.
The presumptive GOP 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 whos on the list. He repeated that statement Tuesday evening but clarified Rubios status as a potential vice presidential pick.
The statement was an unusual departure from the secrecy that has surrounded Romneys process in selecting a running mate. But it speaks, in part, to Rubios political influence among the Republican base and Hispanic voters.
Polls suggest that Hispanics overwhelmingly support Obama, but Romney and the GOP have been working to broaden their appeal among the growing demographic.
Rubios exclusion from Romneys short list would disappoint some conservative activists, but it would not come as a complete surprise. While he offers obvious political benefits as a Hispanic leader from the swing state of Florida, 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 1.
Its a reflection both of Romneys philosophy and lessons from the selection of former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin four years ago as the GOP running mate.
A former state lawmaker, Rubio, 41, has served in the Senate for less than two years. Romney did not address Rubios credentials Tuesday.
Inexperience could work against other oft-mentioned candidates, including New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.