Republican Mitt Romney launched his general election campaign against President Barack Obama after sweeping five primaries on Tuesday, condemning the president for false promises and weak leadership and declaring a better America begins tonight.
Romney claimed victory in the Republican nominating race and outlined the themes of his campaign against Obama, asking Americans if they were better off under his administration and accusing the president of failing to deliver on his campaign pledges of hope and change.
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"What do we have to show for three-and-a-half years of President Obama?" Romney asked during a speech in New Hampshire. "Is it easier to make ends meet? Is it easier to sell your home or buy a new one? Have you saved what you needed for retirement? Are you making more in your job?"
Romney, a former head of a private equity firm who has put the struggling economy at the center of his campaign, slammed Obama's economic policies and said they had led to "hopes and dreams diminished." He promised he would offer a better chance to those who are struggling.
"People are hurting in America, and we know that something is wrong, terribly wrong with the direction of the country," he said.
"This election is about the kind of America we will live in," he said. "In the America I see, character and choices matter. And education, hard work, and living within our means are valued and rewarded."
Romney's speech, focused almost exclusively on the economy, came after he rolled to easy double-digit victories in five Northeastern states - Connecticut, Delaware, New York, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island - with a combined 231 delegates.
The wins moved Romney, who entered the night with 695 delegates, closer to the 1,144 he needs to formally clinch the nomination, a milestone that is still weeks away.
Romney effectively ended the Republican race on April 10 when his top rival, Rick Santorum, suspended his White House campaign, but the speech in the general election battleground state of New Hampshire was the first time he had claimed the mantle of presumptive nominee.
"After 43 primaries and caucuses, many long days and more than a few long nights, I can say with confidence, and gratitude, that you have given me a great honor and solemn responsibility," Romney said.