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Romney Goes for Pennsylvania Knockout While Blasting Obama

By , Bloomberg - April 5, 2012

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Mitt Romney supporters on April 3, 2012 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Mitt Romney supporters on April 3, 2012 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Photographer: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Daniel Acker/Bloomberg

Mitt Romney is barnstorming through Rick Santorum's home state of Pennsylvania, seeking a potential knockout against his chief Republican opponent while stepping up his attacks on President Barack Obama.

Mitt Romney is barnstorming through Rick Santorum's home state of Pennsylvania, seeking a potential knockout against his chief Republican opponent while stepping up his attacks on President Barack Obama. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg

Mitt Romney is barnstorming through Rick Santorum's home state of Pennsylvania, seeking a potential knockout against his chief Republican opponent while stepping up his attacks on President Barack Obama.

Fresh off primary wins in Wisconsin, Maryland and Washington, D.C., that further solidified his claim to the presidential nomination, Romney is pushing for a victory in the April 24 primary on Santorum's turf.

Romney never mentioned Santorum, a former Pennsylvania senator, as he assailed Obama yesterday, calling him an "out of touch" leader who has hurt the economic recovery and is running a "hide-and-seek" campaign to obscure his record and plans for the country.

Obama "just doesn't understand what's been happening in the country, in part because of what he's been doing wrong," Romney told voters at The Iron Shop, a spiral-staircase maker in Broomall, a suburb of Philadelphia. "He is so out of touch with the American people that he doesn't see how many people are struggling because of his policies."

While Santorum said he would remain in the race, Romney's appearances offered more evidence that he considers the primary battle effectively over and the nomination his.

Romney, 65, a former Massachusetts governor, told newspaper editors meeting in Washington that Obama's March 26 comment to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev about having more "flexibility" on missile defense policy after the November election "calls his candor into serious question." The private exchange with the Russian leader was captured on video without Obama's knowledge.

"With all the challenges the nation faces, this is not the time for President Obama's hide-and-seek campaign," Romney said.

While he stopped short of calling for his rivals to quit the Republican contest, Romney made it clear he wants the nominating race to end quickly so he can focus entirely on Obama.

Questioned about whether he had asked his Republican opponents to step aside, Romney drew chuckles from the audience when he said, "No, I haven't, but now that you bring it up..."

"I hope that we're able to resolve our nomination process as soon as possible, of course, because I'd like to focus time and attention on those key battleground states and raising the funds to be somewhat competitive with the president," Romney said.

Santorum said he had no intention of ending his bid even after his trio of defeats.

"Everyone has been asking me, from the days I was driving around in the Chuck truck in Iowa, to get out of the race," he said. "I've never been the establishment's candidate, and that holds true to today."

He said he is pinning his comeback hopes on a victory in Pennsylvania, followed by wins in Southern states that vote in May, including North Carolina, West Virginia, Arkansas, Kentucky and Texas.

"We have to win here," he told reporters after a plate of "Bob's Bountiful Breakfast" at Bob's Diner in Carnegie, Pennsylvania, a Pittsburgh suburb he represented in the U.S. House. "We've got a strong base of support here, and we're going to work very, very hard. Then we're going to get into May."

Romney's allies made it plain they don't want the contest to get that far. Senator John McCain of Arizona, the 2008 Republican presidential nominee, said on CBS News yesterday that he hoped Santorum "would understand that it's time for a graceful exit."

Not waiting for the end of the primary season, Romney is retooling his campaign to target Obama. As one step in that process, he is bringing on Ed Gillespie, a former chairman of the Republican National Committee and a former top adviser to President George W. Bush, as a senior adviser, the campaign said today in an e-mailed statement.

On April 3, in a speech to the editors' group, Obama directly engaged Romney for the first time, criticizing him by name and mocking him for describing as "marvelous" the U.S. House-passed budget that would overhaul Medicare and cut domestic programs while lowering taxes for high earners.

"He said that he's very supportive of this new budget, and he even called it "˜marvelous,' which is a word you don't often hear when it comes to describing budgets," Obama said. "It's a word you don't often hear generally."

Romney dismissed the president's presentation as loaded with "distortions and inaccuracies," saying Obama was engaging in "rhetorical excess" to try to obscure his own record.

Obama in his remarks to the editors "railed against arguments no one is making, and criticized policies no one is proposing," Romney said.Β "It's one of his favorite strategies: setting up straw men to distract from his record."

Romney is also working quietly to repair damage to his image inflicted during the primary campaign, with polls showing him trailing Obama among women, Hispanics and independents in politically competitive states.

Exit polls in Wisconsin -- the most competitive April 3 primary -- showed that Romney dominated among almost every demographic group and made strides with the social conservatives and evangelical Christians that had previously backed Santorum, as well as with lower- and middle-income voters. Now he must appeal to swing voters who could deliver him a victory over Obama.

In Broomall yesterday, that was his main message. "Please help me defeat Barack Obama next November!" he told voters.

After the latest round of voting, Romney has 658 delegates, according to an Associated Press tally, more than half the 1,144 needed to capture the nomination. Santorum has 281 delegates, meaning he would need to collect about three quarters of those remaining to win the party's nod while Romney -- who has won about 58 percent of the delegates so far -- would need to win just over 40 percent. Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich trails with 135 delegates, and U.S. Representative Ron Paul of Texas has 51.

To contact the reporter on this story: Julie Hirschfeld Davis in Broomall, Pennsylvania at

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