Romney Takes 5 States, Trains His Sights on Obama

Romney Takes 5 States, Trains His Sights on Obama

By Scott Conroy - April 25, 2012

Mitt Romney on Tuesday basked in having all but wrapped up his quest for the Republican nomination with an exultant speech in New Hampshire -- a state deeply embedded in his personal and political identity and where he officially launched his campaign almost 10 months ago.

Though five other northeastern states handed him resounding primary victories on Tuesday, Romney chose for the venue of his prime-time address the first-in-the-nation primary state, which was key to his leapfrogging of the GOP pack in January -- and which also could play a decisive role in the general election.

“Tonight is the start of a new campaign to unite every American who knows in their heart that we can do better,” the triumphant candidate said with his wife, Ann, by his side. “The last few years have been the best that Barack Obama can do, but it’s not the best that America can do.”

Though he has for weeks increasingly trained his sights on the general election contest that is now at hand, Romney’s speech Tuesday night was his clearest pivot yet away from the spats over conservative orthodoxy that have at times dominated the Republican primary process.

While he did not claim outright the mantle of presumptive nominee, Romney’s face betrayed an appreciation for the reality that the nomination is for all intents and purposes his, and his words expressed no uncertainty over what he has achieved.

“After 43 primaries and caucuses, many long days and more than a few long nights, I can say with confidence and gratitude that you have given me a great honor and solemn responsibility, and together, we are going to win on Nov. 6,” the former Massachusetts governor said.

With his resounding victories in New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania and Delaware, he still has not accumulated the 1,144 delegates needed to secure the nomination, but he nonetheless removed any last vestiges of doubt that he will be the Republican taking on President Obama in November.

Romney has widely been considered the presumptive nominee since Rick Santorum dropped out of the race two weeks ago, and his clean sweep of the five states Tuesday will compel former House Speaker Newt Gingrich to consider whether he can move forward without sacrificing what is left of his clout.

Gingrich told NBC News on Monday that he would need to “reassess” his campaign if he did not pull off a surprise showing in Delaware -- where he had campaigned extensively over the last few weeks.

In four of the five states, Gingrich trailed the other remaining GOP candidate, Ron Paul, who is expected to continue his token opposition to Romney. The libertarian-leaning Texas congressman is unlikely to suspend his campaign before the Republican National Convention in late August, despite not having won a single state.

Romney began his second quest for the Republican nomination as the front-runner and weathered a torrent of challengers over the better part of a year, all of whom demonstrated a considerable ability to generate headlines and media hype yet were arguably limited threats to steal the nomination from him.

Still, the former governor’s campaign faced down more than its fair share of trying moments during the nominating fight, including Gingrich’s victory in the South Carolina primary, Santorum’s razor-thin victory in Iowa and near-wins in Michigan and Ohio, and a long-term inability to run away from the pack in national polls.

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

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