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Romney Declines to Bask in His "Good Day"

Romney Declines to Bask in His "Good Day"

By Scott Conroy - April 11, 2012


WILMINGTON, Del. -- "This has been a good day for me," Mitt Romney said near the beginning of his remarks at a fabrication plant here on Tuesday night.

The crowd greeted the candidate's low-key observation about Rick Santorum's exit from the race with a sustained round of applause. But the former Massachusetts governor did not allow himself even a moment to breathe easily as he praised Santorum for the "important contribution" he made in the 2012 campaign and saying his former rival would have a “major role” in the GOP going forward.

Romney knows as well as anyone that there is no time to celebrate. He’s gearing up for a general election campaign against an incumbent president who has enjoyed a significant head start while the Republicans have battled it out over the last few months.

Santorum’s departure from the race was indeed good news for Romney, who now faces only token opposition from Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul on his way to locking up the Republican nomination. But there was also some worrying news for the now-presumptive nominee.

An ABC News/Washington Post poll released Tuesday showed him trailing President Obama, 51 percent to 44 percent, among registered voters nationally. And the poll had particularly concerning data about Romney’s standing among women, as he trailed the president by 19 percentage points (57-38) among registered female voters.

During his appearance in Delaware, which holds its Republican primary April 24 along with four other northeastern states, Romney made his case to independent female voters --- who could swing the election -- that their interests would be far better served under a new White House.

With several women attendees positioned directly behind him, he told that crowd that “there’s been some talk about the war on women,” but asserted that “the real war on women has been waged by the Obama administration’s failure on the economy.”

Romney said that 92.3 percent of jobs lost during Obama’s presidency had been held by women, and that female voters would be better served by electing a leader who “understands how the economy works.”

One of his most enthusiastic supporters in attendance was former insurgent candidate for the U.S. Senate Christine O’Donnell, whose presence Romney noted during his remarks.

“If any Republican had any doubts about whether or not Gov. Romney was the right candidate, I think those doubts were dispelled tonight,” O’Donnell told RCP after the event. “He has the backbone and character to do what’s right when no one’s looking.”

Former Delaware governor and congressman Mike Castle, whom O’Donnell defeated in the 2010 GOP Senate primary, was also on hand to show his support.

The front-runner kept his remarks almost entirely focused on the economy, as he repeatedly accused Obama of initiating anti-business policies, and he pushed back against the notion that the election would be prove to be a personality-based popularity contest.

“This is not an election, in my view, about a person or a party,” Romney said. “It is an election about the direction of the party.”

He accused Obama of harboring a hidden agenda for a second term, highlighting the recent episode in which the president was caught on an open microphone telling Russian President Dmitry Medvedev that he needed “space” on missile defense issues until after his re-election campaign.

“He’s clearly trying to hide from us what he intends to do,” Romney said. “He’s going to hide, and it’s my job to seek.”

Romney acknowledged that Santorum’s decision to suspend his campaign came as a surprise to him, and as of Tuesday night the former governor was still going forward with his planned political events in Connecticut and Rhode Island on Wednesday.

But as the general election kicks into gear, Romney is poised to transition fully into a new stage of his campaign with even greater political challenges in front of him than the ones he has surmounted thus far.

Asked by a member of the audience whether he had chosen his running mate, he joked, “I’m here to announce today . . . that I do not even have a list.”

Romney added that he would soon begin considering his vice-presidential choice in earnest. 

Scott Conroy is a national political reporter for RealClearPolitics. He can be reached at sconroy@realclearpolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter @RealClearScott.

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