MIDDLETON, Wis.—After a more tumultuous primary than he expected, Mitt Romney has been careful not to be too confident in his ability to lock up the Republican presidential nomination—at least not in public.
But speaking at a town hall here Sunday, Romney seemed to finally embrace the storyline that his campaign has been pressing for weeks: That he is likely to be the GOP nominee.
Answering a voter's question about how he will woo female and Latino voters—two key demographics where Republicans have lost serious ground to Democrats—Romney attacked President Obama's record and predicted he'll "probably" be the Republican nominee.
"This president can't run on his record, and so he's going to try in every way he can to divert to some other kind of attack and try to have people disqualify our nominee, which will probably be me, and instead of talking about where we've been, and where we're going as a nation," Romney said.
It was a small but notable shift for Romney, who has cautiously spoken about his "hope" of being the Republican nominee but has been careful not to get too far ahead of himself.
His remarks capped off what was a weekend of intense campaigning in Wisconsin for the former Massachusetts governor, who holds a comfortable lead in many polls heading into Tuesday's primary.
But while Romney's schedule was more packed than usual, both the candidate and his staff had a noticeably more easygoing attitude heading into election day here, compared to past contests where Romney has been locked in tough races with his closest rival, Rick Santorum.
On Sunday, his staff played an epic April Fools' Day joke on their boss, leading him into a fake event site where they pretended no voters had turned out to see him. Later, Romney and his new top surrogate, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, made an unannounced stop at a Culver's hamburgers location in Johnson Creek, Wis., where he tried one of the chain's famous ButterBurgers and chatted up potential voters.
But in spite of Romney's busy campaign schedule across the state—and the fact that television airwaves here are dominated by campaign ads featuring Romney's face—there was at least one voter who had no idea who exactly the candidate was.
"Is that Rick Santorum?" a man asked one of the Secret Service agents guarding Romney at Culver's.
When told that it was Romney, the man scoffed. "He looks a lot older in person," he said.
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- Mitt Romney