WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama called Mitt Romney on Wednesday to congratulate him on winning the Republican nomination, while Romney set off on a California fundraising blitz to prepare for the November election.
The president told Romney “he looked forward to an important and healthy debate about America’s future,” Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt said. Romney’s campaign said the call was “brief and cordial.” Both men wished each other’s families well.
Romney surpassed the 1,144 delegates needed to win the Republican nomination by winning 105 delegates in the Texas primary Tuesday.
Romney hopes to present himself as a worthy replacement for Obama who can help revitalize a slow-moving economy, the most important issue for voters.
“Not a lot of people focus time on the characteristics of a new candidate like myself, and people will get to know me better,” Romney said in a Fox News interview that aired Wednesday but was taped over the holiday weekend. “My guess is they’re going to get to know more about me than they’d like to by the time we’re finished.”
But his victory Tuesday was partially overshadowed by his fundraising appearance in Las Vegas with real estate baron Donald Trump, who continues to push the false allegation that Obama was born outside the United States and is ineligible to hold the presidency.
The former Massachusetts governor’s ties to Trump, a boisterous voice in the Republican party, mark the latest example of the hugely wealthy Romney’s less than sure-footed run for the presidency.
Romney explains his readiness to accept Trump’s financial help by saying he is not required to agree with all the positions held by his backers. Romney contends that Obama is born in the U.S., despite the claims by Trump and other extreme Republicans.
The campaigns of both Obama and Romney are expected to raise vast sums — perhaps as much as a billion dollars each — in what will be the most lavish spending ever in a U.S. presidential campaign.
That will be compounded by corporate money pouring into independent, so-called super political action committees allied with the campaigns. That source of political support became a reality after a 2010 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that such political spending by corporate entities and labour unions was guaranteed under the Constitution’s free speech provision.
Trump, who remains popular with the Republicans’ conservative base, didn’t mention the Obama “birther” issue Tuesday.
Romney has reached the nomination milestone with a steady message of concern about the U.S. economy, a campaign organization that dwarfed those of his Republican foes and a fundraising operation second only to that of Obama. His campaign rests on the contention that his success as a private equity investor — an endeavour that left him with a fortune estimated at $250 million — qualifies him to run the United States government at a time of deep economic uncertainty.
Romney, who would be the first Mormon to be nominated for president by a major party, must now energize conservatives who still doubt him, while persuading undecided voters that he can do a better job fixing the nation’s struggling economy.