Former U.S. House of Representatives speaker Newt Gingrich appears poised to drop out of the race for the U.S. Republican presidential nomination, after front-runner Mitt Romney swept five state primary elections in one day Tuesday.
Several media outlets quoted unnamed Republican officials Wednesday saying Gingrich is expected to suspend his campaign next week.
Following his wins in the northeastern states of Connecticut, Delaware, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania and New York, Romney is now turning his attention toward the November general election -- and U.S. President Barack Obama.
In a victory speech in New Hampshire, Romney told supporters that Obama has failed to restore the nation's economy, which has struggled with chronically high unemployment since the worldwide recession struck in 2008. Romney declared that "a better America begins tonight."
"Tonight is the start of a new campaign to unite every American who knows in their heart that we can do better," he said. "The last few years have been the best that Barack Obama can do, but it's not the best America can do. Tonight is the beginning of the end of the disappointments of the Obama years, and it’s the start of a new and better chapter that we will write together."
The former Massachusetts governor is claiming the Republican nomination after a long primary election season. Romney's path was cleared when his strongest rival, former U.S. senator Rick Santorum, dropped out of the race two weeks ago.
Romney entered Tuesday's primary contests with at least 695 of the 1,144 delegates needed to clinch the nomination, far ahead of rivals Santorum, Gingrich and Rep. Ron Paul (Tex.). He is focusing Wednesday and Thursday on fundraising, with several events planned in New York and New Jersey.
Meanwhile, Obama, who faces no challengers for the Democratic party's nomination, is visiting a college campus in Iowa Wednesday to tout his plans for more affordable higher education. The stop follows similar college visits in North Carolina and Colorado Tuesday.
The president wants Congress to extend a law set to expire in July that would prevent interest rates on student loans from doubling.
The president spoke about the law Tuesday when he appeared on a popular late-night television talk show, NBC-TV's "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon."
Romney, who has questioned what the president has done for young people since taking office, has also endorsed extending the law.