With five more states and the Republican Party's presidential nomination firmly in hand Tuesday night, Mitt Romney renewed his assault on President Barack Obama and his handling of the nation's finances.
"It's still about the economy, and we're not stupid," the nominee-to-be said, echoing James Carville's oft-quoted line about the 1992 presidential election as he offered a gallery of bleak financial images from the last three years.
Mr. Romney spoke as the polls closed on five more of the primaries and caucuses that have propelled him to a commanding lead in the nomination competition.
"I can say with confidence and gratitude that you have given me a great honor and solemn responsibility. And together we will win on Nov. 6," he said.
The sweep had been all but certain since Mr. Romney's last real opposition, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, dropped from the race two weeks before his former constituents got a chance to vote. Mr. Romney still faced token opposition from former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Texas Rep. Ron Paul, but neither had any credible hope of blocking his march to the 1,144 delegates needed to officially secure the GOP standard.
And shortly after the polls closed, it was apparent, as expected, that Mr. Romney would sweep Pennsylvania and the four other primaries -- New York, Rhode Island, Connecticut and Delaware -- that represented the latest anticlimactic step in the GOP nomination calendar.
Playing off the image of hope that fueled the incumbent's 2008 campaign, Mr. Romney charged that "over the last three years, we have seen hopes and dreams diminished by false promises and weak leadership."
Mr. Romney spoke in Manchester, N.H., the state where he owns a vacation home and where he formally launched his second bid for the White House nearly a year ago.
"For every single mom who feels heartbroken when she has to explain to her kids that she needs to take a second job," Mr. Romney said, "... for every grandparent who can't afford the gas to visit his or her grandchildren ... for the mom and dad who never thought they'd be on food stamps ... for the small business owner desperately cutting back just to keep the doors open one more month -- to all of the thousands of good and decent Americans I've met who want nothing more than a better chance, a fighting chance, to all of you, I have a simple message: Hold on a little longer. A better America begins tonight."
Mr. Romney had commanding leads in all five states. In Pennsylvania, with nearly all the votes tabulated, he led in all 67 counties.
Mr. Romney enlisted his enthusiastic crowd in a call and response preview of his campaign's general election criticism of the administration. They offered a series of loud answers of "No," to his rhetorical questions about the Obama record.
"Is it easier to make ends meet?"
"Is it easier to sell your home or buy a new one?"
"Have you saved what you needed for retirement?"
"Are you making more in your job?"
Reluctantly liberated from the campaign trail, Mr. Santorum and his wife, Karen, spent election night in an interview with CNN's Piers Morgan, whose show had become a favored outlet for the Santorums through the campaign. Mr. Santorum resisted making a formal endorsement of his rival but has made clear in the past that he would end up supporting the now-certain nominee.
Since his landslide loss to Mr. Romney in Florida in late January, Mr. Gingrich had been an increasingly irrelevant factor in the overall GOP race, but he hoped to gain a measure of solace Tuesday night concentrating on Delaware.
But the major television networks were able to call the result in the First State, another lopsided win for Mr. Romney, soon after the polls closed.
While Mr. Gingrich's campaign had sent mixed signals about how long he was likely to hang on as a candidate, he said after his concession speech that he remained a candidate and would campaign in North Carolina in the next few days.
Mr. Paul, who campaigned in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia over the last week, has vowed to take his iconoclastic campaign all the way to the convention in Tampa, Fla.electionspresident
Politics editor James O'Toole: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1562. First Published April 25, 2012 12:15 AM