Romney backs student loan proposal Obama supports
By KASIE HUNT
ASTON, Pa. (AP) — Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney on Monday embraced a student loan proposal that President Barack Obama is selling on the campaign trail and refused to endorse Sen. Marco Rubio's conservative immigration plan aimed at helping young illegal immigrants.
The two policy positions signaled an effort by Romney to move to the political center as he works to court critical general election swing voters — including young voters and Hispanic voters — after a brutal primary fight.
"I think young voters in this country have to vote for me if they're really thinking of what's in the best interest of the country and what's in their personal best interest," Romney said as he stood next to Rubio, R-Fla.
Romney was campaigning in Pennsylvania a day before the state's primary — he doesn't have serious opposition now that Sen. Rick Santorum has dropped out of the race — and answered reporters' questions for the first time since effectively securing the GOP presidential nomination.
House Republicans have said the estimated $6 billion annual cost of extending low-interest rates for student loans isn't affordable without offsetting cuts but that they are still deciding whether to support a temporary extension. Obama has started pushing Congress for the extension and planned a three-state tour this week to warn students of the potential financial catastrophe they will face if Congress fails to act.
Interest rates are set to double on July 1, from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent, on a popular federal looal is to craft a Republican compromise on the so-called DREAM Act that Romney could support. The DREAM Act, which has languished on Capitol Hill, would provide a path to citizenship for some young illegal immigrants who attend college or serve in the military.
The Cuban-American senator is considered a top potential pick for vice president. He's the latest in a string of possible running mates to campaign with Romney and is the first to get an audition since former Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., left the race and Romney staffers formally began organizing the process of searching for a No. 2.
Romney declined Monday to say if Rubio was on his list of vice presidential candidates. He said his campaign is still setting up the infrastructure that's required to scrutinize potential nominees, including hiring legal and accounting staff.
The former Massachusetts governor also refused to say whether Rubio is experienced enough to serve as his No. 2. Romney often criticizes Obama, who was a first-term senator when he was elected president, as a "nice guy" who is "in over his head," implying that the Democratic incumbent didn't have the experience he needed for the job.