Evan Vucci, Associated Press
Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney hands out cookies before departing on a flight to the next campaign stop, Tuesday, March 13, 2012, in St. Louis, Mo.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Mitt Romney ignored his GOP presidential rivals Tuesday as he asked Missouri voters to help him secure the party nomination and take on President Barack Obama this fall.

Romney told a St. Louis crowd of about 400 that Obama is content with high deficits and high gasoline prices. The former Massachusetts governor repeated his promises to cut spending, create jobs and boost the military.

Romney did not refer directly or indirectly to his GOP rivals in his 15-minute speech under blue skies. He chose to spend the day in Missouri, which holds caucuses Saturday, rather than in Alabama and Mississippi, where Republicans were voting Tuesday. A Romney victory in either of those states could help solidify his claim as the likeliest nominee.

Romney seemed content to spend much of his time doing TV and radio interviews. His first of two planned public events Tuesday was scheduled to last 50 minutes in the Kirkwood suburb of St. Louis. But he spoke only 15 minutes, took no questions, and began shaking hands and posing for photos with voters.

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At a later appearance in Kansas City, Romney said he hoped to do well in Alabama and Mississippi. "If the polls are anywhere near correct, we'll end up with, I don't know, a third of the delegates," Romney told reporters traveling with him. "And if that's the case, why that inches us closer to the magic number."

"This is all about getting delegates," he said.

On Monday, Romney made a final pitch to Alabama voters during an appearance in Mobile with comedian Jeff Foxworthy. He jabbed Obama, saying the president has botched policy on energy, taxes, health care and other issues.

Romney's schedule called for him to spend much of Wednesday and Thursday raising money in New York before traveling to Puerto Rico on Friday. Puerto Rico's Republican primary is Sunday.