On primary day, Romney looks toward fall election

By Kasie Hunt

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, April 24 2012 1:25 a.m. MDT

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney gestures during his campaign rally at Consol Energy Research and Development Facility in South Park Township, Pa., Monday, April 23, 2012.

Jae C. Hong, Associated Press

Enlarge photo»

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Mitt Romney is all but certain to sweep Tuesday's five presidential primaries, marking a nearly definitive end to the Republican nomination process.

Voters in New York, Connecticut, Delaware, Rhode Island and Pennsylvania will cast ballots Tuesday. But Romney won't be in any of those states Tuesday night. Instead, he'll return to New Hampshire, the state where a sweeping primary victory in January set him down the path to the GOP presidential nomination.

From the Radisson Hotel downtown, Romney plans a speech he's titled "A Better America Begins Tonight." The general election speech, aides say, will represent a definitive pivot away from the primary contest and toward Democratic President Barack Obama and the general election.

Romney has been the party's presumptive nominee since his closest rival, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, dropped out of the race earlier this month.

The former Massachusetts governor has turned toward the center in recent days, beginning the process of appealing to independent voters in the wake of a brutal primary season

Romney was drawn to the right on issues like immigration as he fought off challenges from other Republicans. On Monday, he signaled he was considering a wider range of immigration policies, including a proposal from Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., that would allow some young people a chance at visas to stay in the U.S.

Romney also embraced a temporary extension of lower rates for student loans, a policy opposed by House Republicans but backed by President Barack Obama.

Romney announced his support for that proposal as he campaigned in Pennsylvania a day before its GOP primary. While Pennsylvania is a battleground state in the fall, his campaign visits Sunday night and Monday were largely scheduled before Santorum left the race and the primary in Santorum's home state was still competitive.

There are a total of 209 delegates at stake Tuesday.

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