Evan Vucci, Associated Press
Read more: Marco Rubio describes Mormon past in book
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 cited unnamed advisers in reporting that Rubio, R-Fla., wasn't on the short list for the No. 2 spot on the GOP ticket.
"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."
Earlier in the day, Romney had refused to comment on reports that Rubio, a rising star in Republican politics, wasn't 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 who's on the list. He repeated that statement Tuesday evening but clarified Rubio's status as a potential vice presidential pick.
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.
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 one of the most popular Hispanic leaders serving in elected office.
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 GOP 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. The Florida Democratic Party blasted a message to reporters titled: "Rubio fails preliminary review in Veepstakes."
Asked about the reports during an appearance on Fox News, Rubio also 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. 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 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 GOP 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.
- 2 big wildfires in LA-area foothills burn...
- Lagging in fundraising, Trump calls on GOP...
- White House clears small, commercial drones...
- Hundreds of new evacuations across West as...
- SKorea military: NKorea fires 2 suspected...
- North Korea makes apparent progress with...
- In speech, Trump to ramp up critique of...
- Nearly 1 in 3 on Medicare got commonly abused...
- Immigration ruling called hurtful, a... 75
- Mormon youth leader dies on trek outing... 72
- Nearly 70 percent of Utahns say Donald... 62
- Dems stage election-year sit-in on... 46
- Poll: Trump up over Clinton in Utah,... 43
- Democrats end 25-hour plus protest to... 30
- Love won't go to GOP national convention 27
- Trump, in Scotland, links Brexit vote... 26