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CRAIG, Colo.—When Mitt Romney walked to the rear of his campaign plane in San Diego Monday afternoon, he had one thing on his mind: The Memorial Day meal he had shared with his family at their nearby beach house had been good. Very good.
"Hot dog, potato salad, corn salad," the presumptive Republican nominee said, detailing the menu. "Doesn't get better than that."
And, he added, "Blueberry pie."
His wife, Ann, had made the corn salad, Romney explained, while his son Craig's wife, Mary, was responsible for the blueberry pie. His other son, Matt, had cooked the hot dogs.
"And I did most of the eating," Romney grinned, his face noticeably more tan than usual after a weekend off at the beach.
The presumptive Republican nominee, who has been known to go without talking to his traveling press corps for weeks at a time, was far more relaxed and chatty than usual. And for good reason: With an expected victory in Tuesday's Texas primary, Romney is likely to have the 1,144 delegates necessary to officially clinch the Republican nomination.
"It'll be a big day tomorrow," Romney said, when asked how he felt about finally reaching the milestone after the drawn-out and often contentious GOP primary. "Looking forward to the good news."
But Romney isn't pausing to take a victory lap. On Tuesday, he'll start his day campaigning in this tiny Northern Colorado town on the western side of the Rocky Mountains where he'll start to hammer home what his campaign says is his message of the week: "President Obama is hostile to America's job creators."
But Romney will mark his nomination win with at least one symbolic event. On Tuesday, he'll appear with his former rival, Newt Gingrich, at a fundraiser in Las Vegas—the first time the two have shared a stage since the former House speaker officially bowed out of the race in early May. The event is being held at the Trump International Hotel, where Romney will also appear with the hotel's owner, Donald Trump, who recently repeated his belief that Obama was born outside the United States.
Asked Monday if he is "comfortable" with Trump's statements on the birther issue, Romney stiffened. "You know, I don't agree with all the people who support me, and my guess is that they don't all agree with everything I believe in," Romney said, an air of irritation in his voice. "But I need to get to 50.1 percent or more, and I'm appreciative to have the help of a lot of good people."
Romney then turned to make his way back toward the front of the plane—his mood a little darker than before. But the presumptive Republican nominee seemed to catch himself, almost as if he didn't want to exit on a tense note.
Squeezing the top of one of the airplane's seats, Romney turned back to reporters.
"This is an upgrade, you know. You notice this?" he said to no one in particular, a hint of a smile on his face. "This is leather. It's not Naugahyde."
Romney appeared to be making fun of himself. Campaigning in the early primary states, Romney often mentioned the "old Naugahyde chairs" he and his partners at Bain Capital had used during the early days of the company, an anecdote that was meant to exhibit the firm's less than fancy beginnings.
Romney declared in a deadpan voice, "Killed a lot of naugas for this."
As reporters giggled, Romney noted that his last plane "was not as nice as this one."
"Gets us there," he added. "I hope."
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