With three-primary win, Romney turns on Obama

April 05, 2012 | 10:41
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Mitt Romney went on the attack Wednesday against US President Barack Obama, a day after taking command of the race to be the Republican contender in November elections with a triple primary win.

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney waves to supporters during his primary night gathering in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (AFP Photo/Justin Sullivan)

In a speech to newspaper editors here, Romney blamed Obama for failing to turn around the US economy quickly enough and took a page from his own critics by accusing the Democratic president of hiding his true intentions from voters.

Romney said he was troubled by the president's recent remarks on an open microphone to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev asking for "flexibility" until after the US elections.

"What exactly does President Obama intend to do differently once he is no longer accountable to the voters? Why does flexibility with foreign leaders require less accountability to the American people? And on what other issues will he state his true position only after the election is over?" he said.

Romney's broadside came a day after Obama used the same forum to call the former Massachusetts governor to account for supporting a "radical" budget passed by congressional conservatives last week and accusing him of "social Darwinism."

With the thrust and parry, the presidential campaign appears to have entered a new phase -- one in which Romney seems to have finally shaken loose from the Republican pack to focus on Obama and the November 6 elections.

His main rival for the Republican nomination, Rick Santorum, did not even rate a mention in Romney's speech, the morning after the former Pennsylvania senator was defeated in primaries in Wisconsin, Maryland and the capital Washington.

"We won them all! This really has been quite a night," Romney told supporters in Wisconsin, where he won by nearly five percentage points.

An undaunted Santorum vowed to fight on, barnstorming Wednesday across his home state of Pennsylvania, a key battleground where voters will go to the polls on April 24.

"There's a long way to go" in the Republican primaries race, Santorum told a few hundred people gathered at the local courthouse in Hollidaysburg.

"Getting the right candidate is more important than getting the first candidate."

On Tuesday night, Santorum said the field "looks a little different in May," referring to upcoming votes in more conservative states such as Texas.

But with delegates piling up in Romney's column, the electoral math told a different story, one of rapidly diminishing prospects for a Santorum candidacy despite strong support from religious conservatives.

Romney has 652 delegates after Tuesday's primaries, well over half the 1,144 needed to be crowned the Republican flag-bearer at the party's national convention in Tampa, Florida in August.

He is already acting like the nominee, training his political fire on Obama's "government-centered society" and no longer mentioning his Republican rivals on the campaign trail.

Romney must still overcome skepticism from conservatives, who fear the ex-governor of liberal Massachusetts will tack to the left once he wins the nomination in order to appeal to the all-important independents.

"He now is halfway to the nomination, but only halfway," said Steffen Schmidt, a political scientist at Iowa State University. "He is the inevitable nominee, still tortured by the other three contenders in the GOP."

"There are still too many 'Anybody but Romney' Republicans so it will be a big effort to bring them on board," he said.

Santorum, a conservative Catholic and staunch opponent of abortion and gay marriage, virtually ignored Tuesday's contests in Maryland and the District of Columbia, to concentrate on the important midwestern state of Wisconsin.

But in the end, Romney had 43 percent of the vote to Santorum's 38 percent.

Romney won 49 percent to Santorum's 29 percent in Maryland and dominated with 70 percent in Washington, with former House speaker Newt Gingrich and Texas congressman Ron Paul trailing far behind in all three contests.

"Let's face it. Mitt Romney is going to be the nominee," said prominent Romney supporter Tim Pawlenty, a former Minnesota governor.

Romney has now won 24 out of 37 nominating contests. Santorum has racked up 11 victories and has well under half Romney's delegate count.


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