Romney’s comments came after ABC News reported that his search team had not asked Rubio to complete a questionnaire or submit any personal financial documents. One outside Romney adviser confirmed that report to The Washington Post later Tuesday, though the adviser left open the possibility that Romney officials could thoroughly vet Rubio at a later date.
Romney strongly denied the ABC report, which was attributed to two anonymous sources.
“I can’t imagine who such people are,” the presidential candidate told reporters. “But I can tell you this: They know nothing about the vice presidential selection or evaluation process. There are only two people in this country who know who are being vetted and who are not, and that’s Beth Myers and myself. And I know Beth well. She doesn’t talk to anybody. The story was entirely false.”
Romney campaign spokesmen said they did not know when or whether Rubio submitted his vetting paperwork, adding that the process is being kept confidential by Myers, a longtime Romney confidant who has been running the search for two months.
Earlier Tuesday, a second adviser who works directly on the campaign told The Post that Romney officials had conducted a preliminary review of Rubio, mostly using documents, statements and news reports that were publicly available. The team did similar public vettings of a large number of other candidates.
Other vice presidential possibilities, including Sen. Rob Portman (Ohio) and former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty, are undergoing a more intensive review, according to two Republicans close to the campaign.
Top aides to Rubio declined to comment on the vice presidential candidate search.
Many conservative activists favor Rubio, who often wins vice presidential straw polls.
On Monday, Romney said he would not base his decision on a candidate’s popularity among conservatives but on the person’s readiness for high office. “My criteria is who can be president if that were necessary,” he told the Des Moines Register.
Romney regularly talks about Rubio in his stump speeches, and last Friday he used the senator’s statement on President Obama’s new immigration policy as a starting point for discussing his own views on the subject. Yet throughout the spring, some of Romney’s advisers tried to tamp down speculation that Rubio was a favored pick for vice president.
“By the time you apply the gravitas test, which is really 95 percent of what Governor Romney’s looking at — (vice-presidential) people, when introduced to America, nobody would think twice about their ability to be president if necessary — that wipes out 90 percent of the field,” said one outside adviser close to the Romney operation who spoke on the condition of anonymity to talk candidly about the selection process.