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Romney Says He Expects to Be Republican Nominee

Mitt Romney said he expects to become the Republican presidential nominee as rival Rick Santorum called him a weak candidate to run against Democratic President Barack Obama in the November election.

Each appeared on network television talk shows today as Republicans cast votes in Puerto Rico. Primaries are set for later this week in Illinois and Louisiana, in a race that also features former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia.

The Republican primaries, which run through June 26, will yield a nominee in one or two months, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said today on CBS’s “Face the Nation” program. The party has rules to deal with “any possibility,” he said.

“We’re only at halftime,” Priebus said. “We’re not making plans for a brokered convention.”

Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, has won 495 delegates in the Republican contest. Santorum, a former senator from Pennsylvania, has won 252 delegates, according to estimates by the Associated Press.

Romney was asked on “Fox News Sunday” if he faces difficulties in amassing the 1,144 delegates needed to win the nomination.

Strong Nominee

“I can’t tell you exactly how the process is going to work, but I bet I’m going to become the nominee,” Romney said. “I sure hope I’m going to become the nominee, and if I am, I’m going to be a strong nominee.”

Romney said he would “get America back on the track of creating jobs, seeing rising incomes again, gasoline prices that are more reasonable and an America that’s respected around the world.”

Santorum said Romney’s policies are similar to Obama’s on issues including health-care mandates and federal bailouts of banks and automobile companies.

“I feel like I am doing a training run for the general election,” Santorum said today on ABC’s “This Week” program. “The same issues I’m out there campaigning on against Governor Romney are the same issues I’m going to campaign against Barack Obama on.”

Romney “hasn’t been able to close the deal and even come close to closing the deal,” Santorum said. “We can’t nominate such a weak candidate in the general election.”

David Axelrod, Obama’s political adviser, said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” that Republicans are having “a hard time picking a nominee” and Romney “hasn’t been able to make the sale to his own party.”

Gingrich is in third place in the Republican race, with 131 delegates, according to the AP tally that includes endorsements from party leaders who attend the convention and can vote for anyone. Representative Ron Paul of Texas has 48 delegates.

To contact the reporter on this story: Todd Shields in Washington at tshields3@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jeanne Cummings at jcummings21@bloomberg.net

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