WASHINGTON (AP) - Mitt Romney is set to clinch the Republican
presidential nomination Tuesday night with a win in the Texas
primary, a triumph of endurance for a candidate who came up short
four years ago and had to fight hard this year as voters flirted
with a carousel of GOP rivals.
According to the Associated Press count, Romney was sure to pass
the 1,144 delegates needed to win the nomination on Tuesday unless he flopped badly in the Texas contest, an unlikely scenario with no one else campaigning.
The former Massachusetts governor has reached the nomination
milestone with a steady message of concern about the U.S. economy, a campaign organization that dwarfed those of his GOP foes and a fundraising operation second only to that of his Democratic opponent in the general election, President Barack Obama.
"That goal is accomplished, but there's a much bigger goal to
be accomplished and that's winning the presidency," said Rich
Beeson, Romney's political director. "So while you can take a
certain amount of satisfaction and pride for (Romney) and what he's
accomplished, he's very resolved to say, `Our work isn't done."'
Romney must now fire up conservatives who still doubt him while
persuading swing voters that he can do a better job fixing the
nation's struggling economy than Obama. In Obama, he will face a
well-funded candidate with a proven campaign team in an election
that will be heavily influenced by the economy.
"It's these economic indicators that will more or less trump
any good or bad that Romney potentially got out of primary
season," said Josh Putnam, an assistant political science
professor at Davidson College who writes the political blog
Romney opened his day in Colorado's coal country, where he spoke
directly to small town America: "I'm not going to forget Craig,
Colorado. I'm not going to forget communities like this across the
country that are hurting right now under this president," he said.
Local officials report that the area's economy is improving, but
Romney said the recovery is too slow.
The Colorado event was the first stop in a Tuesday swing that
ends at a Las Vegas fundraiser with Donald Trump, who has been
renewing discredited suggestions that Obama wasn't born in the
United States. The Obama campaign released a video Tuesday
criticizing Romney's unwillingness to stand up to Trump and the
more extreme elements in his party. Romney says he believes Obama was born in America but has yet to condemn Trump's repeated insinuations to the contrary.
"Mitt Romney's continued embrace of Donald Trump and refusal to
condemn his disgraceful conspiracy theories demonstrates his
complete lack of moral leadership," Obama's deputy campaign
manager, Stephanie Cutter, said in a statement. "If Mitt Romney
lacks the backbone to stand up to a charlatan like Donald Trump
because he's so concerned about lining his campaign's pockets, what does that say about the kind of president he would be?"
Asked Monday about Trump's contentions, Romney said, "I don't
agree with all the people who support me. And my guess is they
don't all agree with everything I believe in." He added, "But I
need to get 50.1 percent or more. And I'm appreciative to have the
help of a lot of good people."
Republicans won't officially nominate Romney until late August
at the GOP national convention in Tampa, Fla. He enters the Texas
primary with 1,086 convention delegates - 58 shy of the 1,144
needed to win the nomination.
Texas has 152 delegates at stake and they are awarded in
proportion to the statewide vote. That means Romney has to get at
least 38 percent of the vote there to go over the top. In recent
primaries in Kentucky, Arkansas, Nebraska and Oregon, he has done
no worse than 67 percent.
Texas Republicans also will vote in a Senate primary to choose a
candidate to run for the seat being vacated by Sen. Kay Bailey
Hutchison. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst is facing state Solicitor
General Ted Cruz and Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert. If no one gets more
than 50 percent of the vote, the top two finishers will go to a
runoff in July. The nominee will be strongly favored to win in
November in heavily Republican Texas.
Romney, 65, is clinching the presidential nomination later in
the calendar than any recent Republican candidate - but not quite
as late as Obama in 2008. Obama clinched the Democratic nomination on June 3, 2008, at the end of an epic primary battle with Hillary Rodham Clinton. Four years ago, John McCain reached the threshold on March 4, after Romney had dropped out of the race about a month earlier.
This year's primary fight was extended by a back-loaded primary
calendar, new GOP rules that generally awarded fewer delegates for
winning a state and a Republican electorate that built up several
other candidates before settling on Romney.
Rick Perry, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and Trump
- all of them sat atop the Republican field at some point. But
Romney outlasted them all, even as some GOP voters and tea party
backers questioned his conservative credentials.
The primary race started in January with Santorum, the former
Pennsylvania senator, narrowly edging Romney in the Iowa caucuses. Romney rebounded with a big win in New Hampshire before Gingrich, the former House speaker, won South Carolina.
Romney responded with a barrage of negative ads against Gingrich
in Florida and got a much-needed 14-point win. Romney's opponents
fought back: Gingrich called him a liar, and Santorum said Romney
was "the worst Republican in the country" to run against Obama.
Gingrich and Santorum assailed Romney's work at Bain Capital,
the private equity firm he co-founded, saying the firm sometimes
made millions at the expense of workers and jobs. It is a line of
attack that Obama has promised to carry all the way to November.
On Feb. 7 Santorum swept all three contests in Missouri,
Colorado and Minnesota, raising questions about Romney's status as the front-runner. After a 17-day break in the voting, Romney
responded with wins in Arizona, Michigan and Washington state
before essentially locking up the nomination on March 6, this
year's version of Super Tuesday.
Romney has been in general-election mode for weeks, raising
money and focusing on Obama, largely ignoring the primaries since
his competitors dropped out or stopped campaigning. Santorum
suspended his campaign April 10, and Gingrich left the race a few
Both initially offered tepid endorsements of Romney, but on
Sunday Gingrich gave a full-throated defense of Romney's campaign,
saying on NBC's "Meet the Press" that he was "totally committed
to Romney's election."
Texas Rep. Ron Paul said on May 14 he would no longer compete in
primaries, though his supporters are still working to gain national
delegates at state conventions.
Rich Galen, a Republican strategist who has been unaligned in
the 2012 race, said the long, sometimes nasty primary fight should
help Romney fine-tune his campaign organization so it can operate
effectively in the general election. Galen doesn't, however, think
it was relevant in toughening up Romney for the battle against
"Romney's been running for president for six years. He is as
good a candidate as he's ever going to be," Galen said. "Whatever
you say about him, he was better than everybody else in the race."
Associated Press writer Steve Peoples contributed to this report
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)