Click image to see more photos. (Jae C. Hong/AP)
Mitt Romney said Monday his vice presidential search is still in the "early stages" and that he's had no specific discussions about which Republicans should be on that list.
"The process for selecting a vice presidential running mate is just beginning," Romney told reporters during a press availability at a town hall in Astor, Pa., where he's campaigning ahead of the state's GOP primary Tuesday. "We haven't had a discussion yet of putting together a list or evaluating various candidates."
Romney's comments came as he stood right next to a Republican widely rumored to be on his shortlist: Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who joined the presumptive Republican nominee in what some interpreted as an informal VP tryout.
Asked about Rubio specifically, Romney praised the freshman senator but declined to comment on who is on his VP list. Meanwhile, Rubio, who has repeatedly insisted he's not interested in the job, simply refused to answer questions about Romney's running mate search.
"I'm not talking about that process anymore," Rubio declared.
Romney and Rubio went before the cameras just before a town hall at an energy supply company in the Philadelphia suburbs. It was Rubio's first appearance with Romney, whom he endorsed last month. He's the latest rumored VP prospect to campaign with Romney in recent weeks.
Last month, Romney and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan were virtually inseparable as they campaigned together in Wisconsin, Ryan's home state. The presumptive GOP nominee has also appeared with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, South Dakota Sen. John Thune, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell—all of whom have been rumored to be on Romney's potential running mate list.
But Rubio's Cuban background, his appeal to social conservatives and tea party supporters, and his dynamic persona on the stump have put him at the top of many VP wish lists.
On Monday, he insisted he was simply thrilled to appear with Romney and help him get elected.
"I'm looking forward to being a part of this effort and doing anything I can to help the American people understand the choice they have between the way things are going now and the way they should be going," Rubio said.
It was Romney's first press availability in more than a month. The last-minute avail seemed geared not just at having Romney and Rubio appear together before reporters, but also at giving Romney a chance to weigh in on President Barack Obama's push to woo younger voters with proposals to lower student-loan interest rates.
Romney said he supports Obama's efforts—but insisted younger voters should consider voting for him this fall in order to turn the country around.
"I think young voters have to vote for me if they are really thinking about what is in the best interest of this country and what is in their personal best interest," Romney said.
Pointing out that college graduates are struggling to find jobs, Romney said, "How can you support a president that's led to that kind of economy?"
But Romney's message may have gotten off track thanks to a question from a foreign reporter who asked Romney about his memories of living in France. Romney's response will no doubt be used by Democrats to paint the GOP candidate as exotic and out of touch with struggling Americans.
"I have a lot of memories of France," Romney said. "The best memories were with my wife on vacations from time to time in France. The last vacation we had there, walking around the city of Paris, and walking not just the Champs-Élysées, but also over to the Jardin of Luxembourg and around the city, one of the most magnificent cities in the world ... I look forward to occasional vacations again in such a beautiful place."
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