Romney sweeps three primary tests, aims at Obama
By Pat Reber Apr 4, 2012, 3:35 GMT
Washington - Mitt Romney swept three Republican presidential primaries, putting him one step closer to the party's nomination and giving him more firepower against President Barack Obama, whom he called the architect of US economic ruin.
Romney led by late Tuesday in the important north-central state of Wisconsin with 42 per cent of the votes over chief rival Rick Santorum's 38 per cent with more than 70 per cent of the votes counted.
In the small, politically moderate eastern state of Maryland, Romney led with 48 per cent to Santorum's 30 per cent with 60 per cent of the votes counted. And in the District of Columbia, the nation's capital, Romney led with 70 per cent of the vote in a contest that Santorum never entered.
The two other remaining Republican candidates, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul, lagged far behind in third and fourth place in Tuesday's three races.
Santorum, 53, a former US senator, has about half as many delegates as Romney in the scramble for the 1,144 delegates needed to win the centre-right party's presidential nomination at its convention in August. But he vowed to continue the fight through April and into May when his home state of Pennsylvania and states such as Texas, North Carolina and West Virginia provide richer hunting grounds for the conservative candidate.
In his victory speech, Romney, 68, the former governor of Massachusetts, focussed on the November 6 presidential election, charging that the centre-left Democratic incumbent was a one-time community organizer who believed in a 'government-centred society.'
'Under this president's watch, more Americans have lost their jobs than since the Depression,' Romney said in remarks at his campaign headquarters in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. 'Thirty per cent of single moms are now living in poverty [and] new business start-ups are at the lowest level in 30 years.'
A key issue heading into the November election is the bitter partisan debate over federal spending. Republicans have proposed a budget that would overhaul and reduce government programmes such as Medicare and Medicaid, the government health-care plans for the elderly and the poor, and want to keep taxes low on high income earners and businesses.
Obama ratcheted up the campaign rhetoric earlier Tuesday, attacking the Republican plans as 'social Darwinism' and calling out his likely opponent by name for the first time.
'One of my potential opponents, governor Romney, has said that he hoped a similar version of [the Republican budget] plan from last year would be introduced as a bill on day one of his presidency,' Obama said in a speech to newspaper editors. He mocked Romney for calling the plan 'marvelous.'
Santorum warned in Pennsylvania that the Republican Party establishment was making a mistake by backing Romney. He compared it to the failed strategy in 1976 when the party backed incumbent president Gerald Ford over upstart Ronald Reagan and lost the presidency to the Democrats.
Santorum dismissed the standard argument that Republicans can only win the White House by moving to the centre. 'We win by getting people to move to us and move this country forward,' the social conservative said.
Former speaker of the House of Representatives Gingrich was recently forced to scale back his campaign staff after winning just two states in the nominating contests so far.
Texas Congressman Paul has amassed a following among younger voters attracted to his smaller-government message but has been unable to translate that to significant votes in recent contests and has yet to win a single state.
Read more about US Elections