Rick Santorum’s decision to suspend his campaign means Romney’s full attention moves to defeating President Obama in November.
Mitt Romney’s visit with voters Wilmington changed from pure campaign stop into a celebration of his ascension as the default nominee following Rick Santorum’s announcement earlier in the day that he was suspending his campaign. His opening words summed it all up, “This has been a good day for me.” He says he talked to Santorum earlier in the day about the decision to suspend the campaign. “He will continue to have a major role in the Republican party, and I look forward to his work in help assure victories for Republicans across the country in November.”
Romney rallied with several hundred Republican faithful inside RC Fabricators facility in Wilmington. The company details, fabricates, and erects structural steel and miscellaneous metals for the construction industry. Romney touted his support for small businesses, especially businesses run by women like RC Fabricators. He calls the Obama administration’s policies “devastating” to small business. “We will put people back to work in good jobs by stopping this tax madness,” Romney told the crowd.
After his speech, Romney took several questions from the crowd including one about what he would do if he were elected and the Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to by Romney and others as Obamacare. Romney answered that he would “give a waiver to all 50 states, so they don’t have to follow Obamacare.” He said he would also work to get it repealed because “some states won’t accept that waiver.”
Delaware Republicans were thrilled by the coincidence of timing that turned this event into the de facto start of the Romney vs. Obama general election campaign. “To have Mitt Romney come to Delaware on the same day that the second place challenger drops out, again, that boosts our presence… This couldn’t be better,” said New Castle County Council President Tom Kovach. Kovach, a Republican, is also running for Delaware’s lone seat in the U.S. House.
Only one prominent Delaware figure got a special mention from Romney, former candidate for US. Senate Christine O’Donnell. “I didn’t know you were going to be here,” Romney told O’Donnell in front of the crowd. O’Donnell was an early supporter of Romney’s campaign, somewhat of a favor she says she’s returning for Romney’s support of her campaign against Congressman Mike Castle and eventually Democratic candidate and now Senator Chris Coons. She says she’s even had to debunk Tea Party members who she says were spreading falsehoods about Romney. “When you stand up for someone and you do the right thing, there’s going to be flack, but we did change a lot of people’s minds.” But even O’Donnell was wary of Romney’s chances in the First State. “Delaware is Biden’s home state so, unfortunately I’m not too optimistic about him winning Delaware.” She is very optimistic that Romney will defeat President Obama.
Romney’s visit follows up a series of campaign stops by fellow Republican Newt Gingrich who made his first appearance here in late March. Since then, Gingrich’s wife Callista has also made appearances for her husband. Santorum was scheduled to visit central Delaware this week, but those plans were cancelled when his campaign was suspended.
Gingrich doesn’t appear ready to throw in the towel just yet though. He released a statement following Santorum’s announcement, “I am committed to staying in this race all the way to Tampa so that the conservative movement has a real choice.” He urged Santorum supporters to take another look at his campaign and consider swapping their allegiance to Gingrich.
Romney’s visit to northern Delaware serves a double purpose, connecting with local voters in the First State while at the same time getting exposure through Philadelphia media to Pennsylvania voters. Both states will hold Presidential primary votes on April 24.