Mitt Romney tightened his grip on the Republican nomination on Tuesday with a sweep of the primaries in Wisconsin,Maryland and the District of Columbia,and found himself in his first direct engagement with President Obama,an unmistakable signal that the general election would not wait for internal Republican politics.
Romney emerged from the evening with substantial gains in delegates and a growing perception that he was winning over previously reluctant elements of the party. In winning the main battleground of Wisconsin,Romney led among strong Tea Party supporters and ran closely with Rick Santorum among those who consider themselves to be very conservative and among evangelical Christians,according to exit polls.
Santorum,who at one point led in polls here,said he would continue to compete for voters who have yet to be heard in the coming primaries,starting with his home state,Pennsylvania,on April 24.
But the day was in some respects the start of the general election. Obama for the first time singled Romney out by name,during a major address dedicated to the budget championed by Romneys marquee endorser in Wisconsin Representative Paul D. Ryan which the president called social Darwinism.
He said that hes very supportive of this new budget, Obama said of Romney while speaking at a meeting of editors and reporters in Washington. Using a mocking tone,and referring obliquely to perceptions of his potential opponents elite pedigree,Obama added,And he even called it marvelous, which is a word you dont often hear when it comes to describing a budget; its a word you dont hear generally.
Taking the stage to declare victory in Milwaukee,Romney took his turn to strike general election themes. President Obama thinks hes doing a good job Im not kidding, Romney said,speaking with a huge American flag behind him and an excited hall of supporters.