LAS VEGAS--Mitt Romney mathematically clinched the Republican nomination for president on Tuesday, accumulating enough delegates from his win in the Texas primary to pass the 1,144 needed to secure the nomination at his party's convention in August. The milestone for the former Massachusetts governor comes four years after he lost the nomination to Sen. John McCain and nearly two months after his closest challenger, Rick Santorum, suspended his campaign.
Romney, who is campaigning in Las Vegas, said in a statement issued by his campaign said he was "honored" and "humbled" to have won the nomination, though he acknowledged the upcoming general election won't be easy.
"I have no illusions about the difficulties of the task before us," Romney said. "But whatever challenges lie ahead, we will settle for nothing less than getting America back on the path to full employment and prosperity. On Nov. 6, I am confident that we will unite as a country and begin the hard work of fulfilling the American promise and restoring our country to greatness."
In his bid for the presidency, Romney has focused most of his talk on the economy, a theme he continued earlier today in Craig, Colo., where he insisted that President Barack Obama's policies "have made it harder for America to get back on its feet" and said the president's efforts to tout improvements in the economy are like finding "a twig to hang onto."
Speaking just miles from one of the nation's largest coal-powered energy plants, Romney accused Obama of over-regulating the energy industry and "making it harder for America to get back on its feet."
"I am not going to forget Craig, Colorado," Romney declared at a rally in a small city park. "I am not going to forget communities like this across the country that are hurting right now under this presidency."
But Romney's appearance in this tiny northwestern Colorado town also highlighted the difficulties the presumptive Republican nominee faces heading into November's election as economic measures like unemployment continue to show modest improvement under Obama's watch.
While unemployment in Moffat County—where Craig is located—was listed at 8.3 percent in April, Ryan Call, chairman of the Colorado Republican Party acknowledged that the city's economy was "stronger" than in other parts of the state. It was a reality that Romney seemed to address in his own remarks.
"I meet folks day to day who have jobs but wonder if they are going to be able to keep them," Romney said.
He argued that America faces a "crossroads" this November—casting the election as a choice between economic recovery or what he described as the Obama administration's unfriendly practices toward business.
"Government sees small business and big business as the enemy. We're not the enemy," Romney said. "Some of these liberals say they like a strong economy, but then they act like they don't like business."
Romney said that if elected, he would put into place "a government that sees its job as encouraging the good guys."
The decision to visit Craig appears to have been influenced in part by a video funded by a coalition of conservative groups that focused on how aggressive state regulation of coal was hurting the city's economy.
But a Romney aide insisted the video did not play a direct role in the selection of Craig as a campaign destination.
Still, nearly 200 coal workers were given the day off and bused to the event by Peabody Energy, owner of the coal-fired power plant near Craig. As Romney took the stage, they waved signs that read "Coal equals jobs!" and "No More Regulations!"
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