WASHINGTON -- Mitt Romney was inching closer to officially claiming the Republican presidential nomination as Arkansas and Kentucky voted in primaries Tuesday.
With no serious opposition left, the former Massachusetts governor was certain to pad his lead in the hunt for delegates to the GOP's nominating convention in late August. If he dominates Tuesday as expected, Romney should reach the number of delegates needed to clinch the nomination next week, when Texas voters go to the polls.
Virtually assured of the party nod, Romney has been in general election mode for weeks. He's been spending much of his time fundraising and focusing on Democratic President Barack Obama.
As voters in the two Southern states weighed in, Romney planned to spend Tuesday evening at a campaign fundraiser in New York before an appearance Wednesday in Washington to deliver a speech.
He is in the midst of a three-day swing through the Northeast that is expected to bring in at least $10 million.
A total of 75 delegates are at stake in the Kentucky and Arkansas primaries. Romney could win them all if he dominates the voting.
Romney had 992 delegates heading into Tuesday's contests. That leaves him 152 delegates short of the 1,144 needed to win the nomination. Texas, which offers 152 delegates, votes May 29.
Romney has struggled in some previous Southern contests, when former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich were in the race. With them on the sidelines, Romney has an opportunity to display solid support in two states he should win in November.
Even though they have left the race, Santorum, Gingrich and Texas Rep. Ron Paul are on the ballot in Kentucky and Arkansas.