(AP) 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 , CBS 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.
(CBS News) WASHINGTON - Mitt Romney denied reports Tuesday that Florida Sen. Marco Rubio is not being considered as a possible running mate.
Sources tell CBS News, however, that Rubio is unlikely to be Romney's choice in the end.
It's an issue the presumptive Republican presidential candidate would rather not talk about.
A vice presidential pick is the first big decision voters will see from the presidential nominee, and in a close race, that choice could make a difference.
Because it can be so important, the contenders are always kept secret.
Presidential campaigns don't talk about who's on their short list -- until they feel they have to. And that's where Romney found himself Tuesday.
Throughout the day, the story picked up steam: Rubio reportedly wasn't being vetted as a possible running mate.
A favorite of conservatives -- and a fundraising force -- Rubio deflected questions.
He told Fox News, "I'm not commenting on the vice presidential process. ... I just don't talk about the process at all."
Finally, Romney had had enough. Late Tuesday, he broke his silence to say Rubio was, in fact, on his short list.
"This story was entirely false," Romney said. "Marco Rubio is being thoroughly vetted as part of our process."
Romney also had a note of caution for reporters: Those who talk don't know, and those who know don't talk.
"There are only two people in this country who know who are being vetted and who are not. And that's Beth Meyers and myself."
Myers is Romney's former chief of staff and is running the vice presidential selection process.
"I know Beth well," Romney said. "She doesn't talk to anybody."
But there are clues.
On his five-day bus tour, Romney campaigned with several possible contenders.
In New Hampshire, he scooped ice cream with Sen. Kelly Ayotte and former Minn. Gov. Tim Pawlenty.
In Ohio, the Romneys served pancakes to hundreds, with Sen. Rob Portman and his wife pouring the syrup.
And at a textile mill in Wisconsin, he got a warm welcome from budget hawk Rep. Paul Ryan.
Then there are other prospects: South Dakota Sen. John Thune and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal. They weren't on the bus tour, but have been on the campaign trail.The Romney campaign tells CBS News that, as a first-term U.S. senator, Rubio's a long shot, and that if you're betting, you should probably put your money on Portman or Pawlent
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.
Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty traveled on Romney's bus with him for two full days, on Friday in New Hampshire and through Saturday in Pennsylvania. He often warranted his own introduction, with a local official talking up his accomplishments as Minnesota governor before Pawlenty took the stage to introduce Romney.
When Pawlenty left the tour, it was to fly to New York to appear as a surrogate for Romney on ABC's "This Week."
On Sunday, Ohio Sen. Rob Portman and his wife, Jane, went along for the ride. By that time, though, Romney had been joined by a pack of family members - sons Craig and Matt and five grandchildren. That left Portman and his wife riding on a different bus from Romney's for part of the day.
Still, Romney's team trusted Portman to talk to the reporters who traveled with Romney. A Portman aide snapped BlackBerry photos as the senator did a background briefing.
Less visible was Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, whose role was limited to introducing Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus at an event at a factory in Ryan's hometown of Janesville. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, whose June 5 recall election victory was a big win for Republicans, introduced Romney and accompanied him on a tour through the factory.
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 Republican National Convention in August, the campaign has little time to waste as it meticulously prepares Romney 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."
`The Bain Way' shapes Romney's running mate search
WASHINGTON (AP) -- A businessman at his core, Mitt Romney was legendary in the private sector for his reliance on reams of information and extensive research to decide which companies to take over.
When interviewing potential employees, he favored question-and-answer sessions designed to make recruits think on their feet and provide clues about how they approached situations.
"I like gathering data and information so that you don't just have people just expressing their opinions, but you actually have numbers and facts and figures and people to look to and to find out what's really happening," Romney told C-SPAN recently. "And then with the information you have, you make the decision."
Now, as the Republican presidential candidate weighs a running mate, it's a good bet that he's relying on that same methodical approach and interviewing style that he honed at Bain and Co. and the private equity firm he helped start, Bain Capital. The style even has its own name: The Bain Way.
"This is going to be a very long process. A lot of information is going to be involved," Romney adviser Kevin Madden said recently, though he was quick to add, "Ultimately it comes down to a one-man decision."
Judging by Romney's record when it comes to business and personnel choices, it's a process that could prove challenging for any of the prospective vice presidential nominees he scrutinizes.
Not that Romney or his team rush to talk in public about who those people are or how close he is to making a decision. On Tuesday, Romney was forced to make a rare on-camera statement that his team was considering Sen. Marco Rubio as a running mate. His statement in Holland, Mich., sought to quiet outrage over reports that the promising Cuban-American from crucial swing state Florida was not getting a proper consideration.
The hush-hush nature of the search partly reflects how Romney used to do business in his decades in the private sector. Much like when Romney's team investigated a company for a potential takeover, his political aides are trying to be discreet as they cull public records and prepare to start whittling a short list before presenting their boss with a final recommendation for a running mate.
The most Romney has said about his search for a No. 2, the biggest decision he'll make before the election: Being prepared to be president is his top criterion.
That factor and the methodical selection process run counter to how 2008 GOP nominee John McCain chose the untested Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate. Palin was a risky selection that raised questions about McCain's decision-making.
Obama went with Joe Biden, a veteran senator who twice had run for the White House and had been screened thoroughly.
Eight years before that, George W. Bush choose a Washington veteran in Dick Cheney, a former congressman, White House chief of staff and defense secretary who initially was in charge of finding Bush a running mate.
Romney's search is well under way and Republican insiders suggest an announcement could come as early as next month.
His years in business shed light not just on how he's running his campaign, but also on how he may behave in the White House.
Those who worked with Romney in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s at the Boston-based firm describe a savvy executive who arrived to meetings armed with tons of information he would study before making decisions. They talk of a leader who oversaw thousands of detailed interviews as he considered whom to hire. All this, they say, still is referred to as The Bain Way.
"The whole process is very methodological," William Oliver, who worked directly for Romney at Bain and Co. in the 1980s and now teaches at Brandeis International Business School. "It's numbers and it's analysis."
When it came to big decisions about what companies to take over, every trait was measured on a scale, every answer in an interview assigned a numerical value and every variable considered over and over. There was no room for a gut feeling or a hunch when choosing whether to invest in a company. If the numbers didn't work, Romney's team usually wouldn't gamble on an investment.
The results made Bain a top-tier brand and Romney wealthy.
Bain Capital invested about $2.5 million in the early days of Staples. The first store opened in 1986 and, when the chain went public three years later, Bain pulled in $13 million. Bain turned a $5 million investment in Accuride's tire rim line into a $121 million boon.
But there were failures, too. Bain lost most of its $2.1 million investment in a bathroom fixture company and saw a handbag company fail after a $4 million investment.
When choosing employees, Romney's team put applicants through a series of questions designed to test quick thinking and critical analysis.
What is the revenue of a London music festival? How can Bain help a European airline turn around its declining profits? What would an applicant do if he didn't get a second interview?
It wasn't that the interviewers expected applicants to know how many taxis were actually in New York City. Rather, they wanted to see how the applicant would figure out an answer on the fly.
"We're talking very analytical attention to details, we're talking about a deep dive into the operations of a company," said Howard Anderson, a senior lecturer at MIT's Sloan School of Management who has studied both Bain and Romney. "By the time Bain makes an investment, they know more about the company than the company knows about itself."
Romney will end up knowing just as much about his running mate.
He has spent a considerable amount of time studying the benefits and drawbacks of potential candidates such as Rubio, Ohio Sen. Rob Portman and New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte. Others who may be in the mix include New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin and Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell.
Data and research are driving the weeding-out process for the rest. Tough interviews with Romney are all but certain to follow for those who make the cut.
"My criteria is: Who can be president if that were necessary?" Romney told the Des Moines Register this week.