Mitt Romney won all three primaries on Tuesday, and a backhanded endorsement from President Barack Obama who singled him out for a sharp attack.
Romney handily won the Wisconsin, Maryland and Washington DC primaries, collecting, in the process, a rich haul of delegates. Buoyed, his camp declared an end of the race.
Not so quick, said Romney’s chief Republican rival Rick Santorum. “It’s half time,” he said in a speech, adding, “half the people in this country had not been heard yet.”
He is banking on a win in his home state Pennsylvania to keep his campaign going. But not many in the Republican party see him with a realistic chance even if he did win there.
After the wins Tuesday night, Romney’s delegate count went up to 646 — he needs 1,144 in all to get the nomination. Santorum has 272 delegates, Gingrich 135 and Paul 51.
There was no mention of his Republican rivals in Romney’s victory speech. He went straight for the president, criticising his handling of the economy.
Earlier in the day, President Obama singled him out for some sharp attacks at an AP luncheon. “One of my potential opponents, governor Romney, has said that he hoped a similar version of this plan (Republican congressman Paul Ryan’s budget) from last year would be introduced as a bill on day one of his presidency.
“He said that he’s “very supportive” of this new budget, and he even called it “marvellous” — which is a word you don’t often hear when it comes to describing a budget. It’s a word you don’t often hear generally.”
Obama had until this speech refrained from commenting on the Republican candidates, saying it can wait till one of them gets the nomination.