BROOMALL, Pa. -- With a trio of decisive primary wins vaulting him from front-runner to a nearly secure place at the top of the GOP presidential ticket, Mitt Romney is campaigning campaigned like the presumptive nominee.
And well he might.
It's no longer simply wishful thinking on the part of the former Massachusetts governor to portray himself as the Republican who will face President Barack Obama in November. With decisive wins in Wisconsin, Maryland and the District of Columbia on Tuesday, his stance is as mathematically defensible as it is logical.
Though Romney has spent much of the primary season casting Obama as a well-intended but clueless fellow who has bumbled his way into a tiny economic recovery, his attacks have sharpened notably in the last few weeks.
With the nomination in reach, he ascribes virtually no positives to Obama. Instead, he casts the president as an elite, arrogant and out of touch with ordinary Americans.
"We just got to get him out office," Romney told several hundred boisterous supporters at an iron staircase manufacturer in Broomall, a Philadelphia suburb, late Wednesday afternoon. "He just doesn't understand what's happening in the country, in part because of what he's doing wrong. I think he's so out of touch with the American people that he doesn't see how many people are struggling because of his policies.
"He likes to say he didn't cause the recession, the economic crisis," Romney said. "And that's true. But he didn't make it better, he made it worse. This is a president who I wish would get out talk to people one on one and find out what's going on in their lives."
That line of attack was aired Tuesday night, when during his victory speech in Milwaukee, Romney mocked Obama: "Years of flying around on Air Force One, surrounded by an adoring staff of true believes telling you what a great job you're doing, well, that might be enough to make you a little out of touch."
Ironically, Obama is trying to paint the same portrait of Romney, whose gaffes on the campaign trail have often centered around insensitive allusions to his wealth -- such as making a spontaneous $10,000 debate stage bet with Texas Gov. Rick Perry, or mentioning that his wife owns two Cadillacs.
(This line of battle will be an interesting one to follow. Though Romney and Obama could not have had more different childhoods -- Romney is the privileged son of a governor and car company executive and Obama is the son of a struggling single mother who relied on her parents to help raise him -- they are both products of elite, Ivy League educations. While Romney is extremely wealthy, Obama is merely rich.)
On Tuesday, during a speech to an organization of newspaper editors, for instance, Obama mocked Romney for using the word "marvelous" to describe the budget plan put forward by U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin. Obama called it "a word you don't often hear when it comes to describing a budget. ... It's a word you don't often hear, generally."
A Romney campaign spokesman fired back with instances of Obama using the word "marvelous."
On Wednesday in Pennsylvania, Romney continued his attack on the president, virtually ignoring his nearest rival, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, a native son who has pinned his hopes on winning here.
The crowd of several hundred was especially boisterous, sensing that the end of the GOP primary campaign is in sight. Romney was interrupted several times by sustained applause. And shortly before he began his 20-minute speech, a group of women -- cognizant of the gender gap that pollsters have found between Obama and Romney -- began chanting "Women for Mitt!"
Frank Wolfe, a retired salesman from nearby Westchester, who brought his wife, Arlene, to the rally, said he thinks Romney has a difficult fight ahead. Race, a topic that Romney and Obama (for the most part) have assiduously avoided in their speeches, was at the top of his mind.
"He's going to be up against a lot of money," said Wolfe, 79. "Some of the stuff the Democrats are putting out there has no significance to the race. This Trayvon Martin thing," he said, referring to the controversy over the police investigation of the killing of a black teenager by a neighborhood watch volunteer in Sanford, Fla.
"I really think Obama is trying to divide the country. He's even got a website -- 'Blacks for Obama,'" said Wolfe, shaking his head. (On Jan. 31, in honor of Black History month, as part of his re-election effort, Obama launched "African-Americans for Obama," a vertical on his campaign website targeting black voters. His re-election website also includes group headings for, among others, "Jewish Americans" "Latinos" "People of Faith" and "LGBT.")
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As for Santorum, whose name never crossed Romney's lips, Wolfe said he hoped the former Pennsylvania senator would bow out of the contest.
"He should see the light and leave," said Wolfe. "He knows there's no hope for him, and this thing has dragged on long enough."
Romney, who had begun by asking the crowd for its support in November, closed his speech with a more immediate request: a plea for their votes in the upcoming Pennsylvania primary.
"On April 24, I need you to take the next step in taking back America restoring opportunity and freedom," said Romney. "Let's get the job done."
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