"There was a story that originated today apparently at ABC based upon reports of supposedly outside unnamed advisers of mine," Romney said in Holland, Michigan. "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. 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. Marco Rubio is being thoroughly vetted as part of our process."
But wait, ABC's Jonathan Karl stands by his initial report:
First, I stand by my reporting. As of 9 a.m. this morning, Marco Rubio had not been asked by the Romney campaign to turn over any documents related to the vice presidential search. He had not been asked to fill out any questionnaires. If Romney was “thoroughly vetting” Rubio, he was doing it without Rubio’s knowledge. Now, however, Marco Rubio is the one candidate who the world knows definitively is being vetted. Why? It’s possible that Romney simply had not gotten around to asking Rubio for vetting materials, but his search process has been under way for more than two months.
But there’s also this: immediately after our report aired, conservatives started complaining directly to the Romney campaign that they were making a mistake by not considering Rubio. I am told by several Republican sources that Romney came under intense pressure today from top Republicans who argued it was crazy to take Rubio out of consideration so early. Some argued for Rubio’s appeal as the party’s most effective and charismatic conservative voice. Some argued it is dumb politics to not consider the party’s top Hispanic conservative. It seems Romney, at least now, agrees.
Who are the mysterious "outside advisers" responsible for the initial leaks anyway? Are they the same people who confirmed Karl's story to the Washington Post and NBC News? According to those reports, the Veep finalists may, in fact, be Pawlenty and Portman -- as I had speculated earlier (prior to when the WaPo report was published, mind you). And was NBC's reported quote suggesting that potential female hopefuls were doomed by Palin's "poisoned well" pure link bait? As for the yawning gulf that appears to separate Romney's emphatic statement and the original ABC story, I think Allahpundit is correct that it could boil down to a parsing game about the phrase "thoroughly vetted:"
As WaPo noted earlier, many candidates are being “vetted” in the sense that the campaign’s conducting a preliminary review of their background based on public information. Only the select few on the short list, however, have to fill out a lengthy questionnaire and provide financial documents. When Mitt says “thoroughly vetted,” does he mean the first sort of vetting or the second?
Guy Benson is Townhall.com's Political Editor. Follow him on Twitter @guypbenson. He is co-authors with Mary Katharine Ham for their new book End of Discussion: How the Left's Outrage Industry Shuts Down Debate, Manipulates Voters, and Makes America Less Free (and Fun).
Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography