Romney urges party to shift focus
Republican presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney is awaiting the outcome in three primary elections, urging his party to shift focus to the general election and declaring President Barack Obama "doesn't want to take responsibility for his mistakes" with the economy.
As the former Massachusetts governor appeared ever more likely to win the Republican nomination, he began previewing his message for the fall showdown with Mr Obama.
Mr Romney, favoured in the Republican primaries in Wisconsin, Maryland and Washington, DC, was using his growing status as the likely nominee to issue a subtle push for chief rival Rick Santorum to leave the race. Mr Santorum has vowed to keep battling until Mr Romney is assured of the 1,144 convention delegates needed to secure the nomination.
"The right thing for us, I think, is to get a nominee as soon as we can and be able to focus on Barack Obama," Mr Romney said in an interview with Fox News.
Mr Romney and Mr Obama exchanged barbs in further acknowledgement that both camps think the fall campaign for the general election has already begun. Mr Romney, who has cemented his lead over Mr Santorum through overwhelming spending on television advertising, will face a better organised, better financed Obama campaign backed by the power of the presidency.
"He gets full credit or blame for what's happened in this economy, and what's happened to gasoline prices under his watch, and what's happened to our schools, and what's happened to our military forces," Mr Romney told supporters gathered at a sandwich shop in Waukesha, Wisconsin. "All these things are his responsibility while he's president."
Mr Obama's re-election campaign is running a new TV ad in six swing states criticising Romney by name for the first time - in this case as a backer of "Big Oil". Rising gasoline prices are shaping up to be a major campaign issue and the Republicans are trying to blame that on Mr Obama.
Mr Romney made one campaign stop before an election night party in Milwaukee. He spent the weekend campaigning across Wisconsin, accompanied by Ryan and working to win yet another big industrial state that Mr Santorum was counting on to keep his flagging candidacy alive. Mr Santorum was spending the day in Texas at private fundraisers for his campaign before heading to his home state of Pennsylvania for an election night party near Pittsburgh.
Romney has 572 delegates to the Republican National Convention, half the needed 1,144, and is on a pace to clinch the nomination by the end of the primary season in June. Santorum has 272 delegates, Newt Gingrich 135 and Ron Paul 51.
There were 95 delegates at stake in Tuesday's contests, including 42 in Wisconsin, the only one of the three contests Mr Santorum has seriously contested. Mr Romney was expected to do well in Maryland and in the District of Columbia, where Mr Santorum is not on the ballot.