Romney closes in on Republican nomination25/04/2012 - 10:40:38
Mitt Romney has laid claim to a fiercely-contested Republican presidential nomination by sweeping five primary contests.
He immediately set the tone for the future election campaign by attacking President Barack Obama over his handling of the economy.
After struggling for months to prevail over unexpectedly persistent rivals, the Republican nominee-in-waiting was eager to refocus his efforts on the campaign against Mr Obama.
The former Massachusetts governor said last night as he celebrated his primary victories: “Tonight is the start of a new campaign.”
He attacked Mr Obama as a man whose time in office has been marked by “false promises and weak leadership” in a time of economic struggle.
Mr Romney delivered his remarks to a national television audience from New Hampshire, the state where he won his first primary of the campaign and one of about a dozen states expected to be battlegrounds in the campaign for the White House.
He won primary victories yesterday in Connecticut, Rhode Island, Delaware, Pennsylvania and New York in the first contests since his chief rival, former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum, conceded the race.
Mr Romney is still several hundred delegates shy of a nominating majority, although he is far ahead of his most persistent rivals. There were 209 at stake in yesterday’s primaries, and he won at least 146, with his haul expected to grow higher.
That left him with 844 delegates of the 1,144 needed for the nomination, compared with 260 for Mr Santorum, 137 for Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the House of Representatives, and 79 for Texas representative Ron Paul. He could collect the needed delegates by the end of next month.
Mr Santorum suspended his campaign two weeks ago rather than risk losing a primary in his home state of Pennsylvania.
Mr Gingrich also seemed to be heading toward the sidelines, although he said he intends to complete his plans for several days of campaigning in North Carolina.
Mr Romney was eager to leave the nominating campaign behind.
“After 43 primaries and caucuses, many long days and not a few long nights, I can say with confidence – and gratitude – that you have given me a great honour and solemn responsibility,” he said.
Mr Romney planned to intensify fundraising efforts today and tomorrow to prepare for what might be the most expensive presidential contest in the history of American politics. The presumptive Republican nominee has at least six fundraising events in two days in New York and New Jersey.
Mr Romney’s campaign had only about 10 million dollars in the bank at the end of last month. Mr Obama reported more than 104 million dollars in his account, having already spent nearly 90 million dollars on the election.
Election day is November 6.
Six months before the election, opinion polls show the economy to be the top issue by far in the race. The same surveys point toward a close contest, with several suggesting a modest advantage for Mr Obama.
He won the presidency in 2008 in the midst of the worst recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s, and since then economic growth has rebounded slowly and joblessness has receded gradually, while housing prices have continued to drop in many areas of the country.
Mr Obama, unchallenged for the Democratic nomination, has a head start in organising, fundraising and other elements of the general election campaign.
Already, he and aides are working to depict Mr Romney and Republicans as pursuing new tax breaks for the wealthy while seeking to cut programmes that benefit millions of victims of the recession, as well as other lower-income Americans.
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