Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney has taken a commanding lead in the battle for his party’s presidential nomination after winning three primary votes on Tuesday in Wisconsin, Maryland and the District of Columbia. The focus of the 2012 presidential campaign is increasingly shifting to a likely matchup between Romney and President Barack Obama.
Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney continues to expand his lead in the delegate count for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination, and it is possible that he could secure the 1,144 delegates needed to win the nomination by sometime in June.
Romney continues to shift his focus away from his Republican challengers to a likely general election campaign against President Obama.
Romney recently spoke about the coming campaign in a speech to a group of newspaper editors in Washington D.C.
“This November, we will face a new beginning. Our choice will not be one of party or personality. This election will be about principle. Freedom and opportunity will be on the ballot," he said.
Romney’s comments came a day after President Obama told Associated Press editors and publishers that sharp divisions between the the country's two major political parties, the Democrats and the Republicans, will be on display in this year’s election.
“I can’t remember a time when the choice between competing visions of our future has been so unambiguously clear," he said.
Romney’s main Republican rival, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, faces a crucial primary showdown in his home state on April 24.
Analysts say a Santorum loss in Pennsylvania would likely force him from the race, giving Romney a clear path to the Republican Party nomination. Public opinion surveys show the race is close.
Santorum is trying to rally supporters in the wake of his latest primary losses.
“We don’t win by moving to the middle. We win by getting people in the middle to move to us and move this country forward," he said.
Republican pressure is mounting on Santorum to quit the race and concede the nomination to Romney.
Arizona Senator John McCain, the party’s 2008 presidential nominee, told CBS television's "Early Show" this week that it is time for Santorum to make a graceful exit from the race. McCain said the lengthy and divisive Republican contest has taken a toll on the party and that he is eager for voters to take a fresh look at Romney as the likely nominee.
“They have watched this really rather disastrous [Republican] campaign, which has really raised the unfavorable [public opinion ratings] of all of our Republican candidates rather dramatically, but they will be looking at him and giving him another opportunity," he said.
MSNBC analyst Richard Wolffe says Romney is driving toward the Republican nomination because he has convinced more voters that he would be the strongest candidate against President Obama.
“He will get the nomination by sheer force of numbers of delegates, of money being spent. And he is really winning because he seems the most electable and most responsible and slightly more disciplined than his rivals," Wolffe said on VOA’s "Issues in the News" program.
ABC News analyst Matthew Dowd says Romney’s latest primary victories over Santorum have set the stage for a long and difficult general election campaign between now and November.
“We are going to get through Easter [April 8] and then the 200-day war starts between the two of these guys. And the funny thing about it is that each of them is accusing the other of the exact same thing, being out of touch, being out of the mainstream and being inauthentic," he said.
The Republican primaries end in late June. Republicans then hold their nominating convention during the last week in August. The Democrats will renominate President Obama as their candidate at their national convention the following week.