By Justin Sink - 04/23/12 05:37 PM EDT
Mitt Romney told reporters Monday that "the process for selecting a vice presidential running mate is just beginning" and there was no short list of candidates.
He made the remarks while standing alongside Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who's considered to be a favorite to be added to the Republican ticket.
He made the remarks in his first press availability since he became the presumptive GOP nominee.
The former Massachusetts governor said that his campaign team along with adviser Beth Meyers — who last week was put in charge of the search — were spending time hiring law and financial firms to do a through vetting of the potential candidates.
And while Romney's appearance with Rubio in Philadelphia on Monday was widely thought to be a vice presidential audition, neither man was willing to openly acknowledge that prospect.
"I'm not talking about that process anymore," Rubio told reporters. The Florida senator has previously denied interest in the position.
Romney also deferred on a question about whether Rubio was a suitable No. 2, considering he had frequently criticized President Obama's lack of experience.
"I don’t think I have any comments on qualifications for individuals to serve in government at this stage," Romney said.
The former Massachusetts governor also signaled that he and Rubio had discussed Rubio's immigration plan, which is a stricter version of the DREAM Act supported by Democrats but still more permissive than the stance Romney took on illegal immigration during the primary.
"I'm taking a look at his proposal, it has a lot of features to be commended," Romney said, noting that he appreciated Rubio's plan did not include a "new category of citizenship."
Romney also hammered Obama on a new report from The Associated Press that showed about half of recent college graduates are either unemployed or in jobs below their skill level. Romney said he felt confident those economic circumstances would drive young voters to the GOP.
"I think young voters in this country have to vote for me if they're thinking about what is in the best interest of the country and their own personal self-interest. ... How in the world can you support a president who has led to this economy?" Romney said.
The presumptive Republican nominee also emphasized he "fully support[s]" the extension of low interest rates on federally-issued student loans, a program championed by the president, who is visiting college campuses this week to discuss the issue.
"Young people will understand that ours is the party of opportunity and jobs," Romney said.
In a moment of levity, Romney also discussed France, where he spent years as a Mormon missionary and which is holding the first round of its presidential election Monday. But Romney spoke fondly of visiting Paris with his wife, Ann, and walking through the city's famed boulevards.
"It's one of the most magnificent cities in the world," he said.