By KASIE HUNT, Associated Press
MILWAUKEE (AP) — Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney assailed President Barack Obama as an "out of touch" liberal Tuesday night as he looked past three primary victories and toward the fall's general election.
"Out of touch liberals like Barack Obama say they want a strong economy, but they really don't like businesses very much," the former Massachusetts governor told supporters gathered in the Grain Exchange in downtown Milwaukee as he celebrated wins in Wisconsin, Maryland and the District of Columbia.
"Years of flying around on Air Force One, surrounded by an adoring staff of true believers telling you what a great job you are doing, well, that might be enough to make you a little out of touch," he said.
Romney's decisive win over rival Rick Santorum in Wisconsin moves him closer to becoming the presumptive nominee to run against Obama in a general election contest that's all but begun.
Obama's re-election campaign is running an ad in six swing states attacking Romney. The president jabbed at Romney on Tuesday during a speech to the annual meeting of The Associated Press. And Romney is starting to push Santorum to the sidelines, telling conservative radio host Sean Hannity that "it's time to get going" in the race against Obama.
Romney on Tuesday cast the election as a "basic choice" between what he called Obama's "government-centered society" and the "opportunity society" he says he would pursue as president.
He painted a dire portrait of the state of the country, saying that more Americans have lost their jobs under Obama than under any other president since the Depression. Romney blamed Obama for the economic recession that began under Republican President George W. Bush.
"These last few years have been difficult, made worse by mistakes and failures of leadership," Romney said.
The front-runner was set to press forward with the still-ongoing nomination fight with stops in Pennsylvania on Wednesday and Thursday — the primary there, in Santorum's home state, is April 24.
But he pushed his rivals toward the exits. "I want to have our nominee start raising money, start organizing a national campaign and focus on President Obama and his agenda because this is time for us to start focusing on him rather than standing and focusing on one another in these primary contests," he said.
The three-week lull before contests in late April promises a flurry of behind-the-scenes general election activity — including hiring staff and fundraising — as well as campaigning in the northeast. Pennsylvania is also a key battleground state in the fall.
"The White House is engaging more," said Romney strategist Stuart Stevens. "They've already been obsessed with Mitt Romney."
Stevens called the general election "an MRI of Obama's record," a rejoinder to Obama strategist David Axelrod's assertion that presidential campaigns are "MRIs of the soul."
Romney is still on pace to rack up in June the delegates he needs to win the nomination at the Republican National Convention. On Tuesday, he won at least 74 delegates in the three races, with 21 yet to be allocated.
That pushed his total to 646 of the 1,144 needed to clinch the nomination. Santorum has 272 delegates, Gingrich 135 and Paul 51.
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