Mitt Romney is using a speech in New Hampshire tonight to declare the Republican primary over and himself the victor, as he formally kicks off his campaign against President Barack Obama.
“After 43 primaries and caucuses, many long days and not a few long nights, I can say with confidence -- and gratitude -- that you have given me a great honor and solemn responsibility,” Romney will tell voters at a hotel in downtown Manchester, according to excerpts released by his campaign. “Together, we will win on Nov. 6.”
He and his campaign anticipate victories in today’s primaries in Connecticut, Delaware, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island, where the polls closed at 8 p.m. local time, and in New York, where voting ends at 9 p.m.
Romney was leading as the first votes were tallied in Connecticut and Rhode Island, according to the Associated Press. No votes were yet reported in Delaware or Pennsylvania.
The former Massachusetts governor and private-equity executive will use the speech to reintroduce himself to voters as his party’s presumptive nominee, according to a campaign adviser who spoke on condition of anonymity. He’ll contrast his economic plans with what he will call Obama’s record of failure.
New Hampshire is the state where Romney announced his presidential bid last June and scored his first primary victory on Jan. 10. His speech is entitled “A Better America Begins Tonight.”
Romney’s anticipated wins tonight will move him closer to the 1,144 delegates he needs to clinch the nomination, pushing his remaining adversaries, former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Representative Ron Paul of Texas, further toward the sidelines.
Gingrich has said he’ll reassess his campaign after tonight’s results.
Before today’s primaries Romney had 698 delegates, according to an Associated Press tally. Former Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania had 260; Gingrich 137; Paul 75.
Santorum, who had emerged as Romney’s main challenger in the Republican race, ended his candidacy on April 10.
Romney, 65, also is reaching out to independent and swing voters, including groups such as women, Hispanics and young people who polls have shown hold a dim view of him following a Republican primary season that has spotlighted policy positions many of them oppose.
Romney’s campaign is already raising money in concert with the Republican National Committee and hiring staff to work at its Boston headquarters and in battleground states around the country, the official said.