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Local reports said Mr. Romney and state party officials outmaneuvered Mr. Santorum and Mr. Paul, who placed first and second in the caucuses there on Super Tuesday last month.

In Tuesday’s voting, Republicans again seemed to break between those who don’t trust Mr. Romney, and those who think he’s the best candidate the party has in a general election matchup with Mr. Obama.

“I think he has a better chance of winning than Santorum or Gingrich. Both those guys tend to shoot themselves in the foot,” said Charles Robinson, 63, as he voted in Gaithersburg.

His wife, JoAnn, 62, a self-identified Democrat who plans to vote Republican in this year’s election, said she preferred Mr. Gingrich and is wary of Mr. Romney.

“I just think that he switches a lot. He doesn’t inspire confidence. I want to vote for somebody that I can trust, but I guess I have to vote for him,” she said.

Mr. Santorum, who won Louisiana’s primary late last month, was searching for another win to shield him from the growing number of Republicans who say it’s time to end what has become a bloody contest and to rally behind Mr. Romney before it is too late.

Mr. Santorum’s campaign sent an email fundraising plea Tuesday asking for money to help cover the costs of airing commercials in Pennsylvania.

“We can win Pennsylvania as long as we have the resources to compete. A win there will give us the momentum we need going into Texas, where the nomination may be decided,” Nadine Maenza, Mr. Santorum’s finance director, said in the email, which closed with “together we can help spread the truth about Mitt Romney and President Obama.”

Mr. Obama, meanwhile, signaled during a speech to newspaper editors in Washington on Tuesday that he is transitioning into full campaign mode. He delivered a fierce attack on House Republicans’ budget, which passed that chamber last week, as “thinly veiled social Darwinism,” and chided Mr. Romney for supporting the plan.

“[Mr. Romney] said that he’s ‘very supportive’ of this new budget, and he even called it ‘marvelous’ [-] which is a word you don’t often hear when it comes to describing a budget,” Mr. Obama said before slipping in a jab at the Republican front-runner’s stiff style on the hustings. “It’s a word you don’t often hear generally.”

Mr. Romney shot back in an interview with radio host Sean Hannity later in the day, saying the president was distorting the truth.

“I mean, this is a president who so misrepresents the policies and proposals of our party and of myself as well and then fails to acknowledge the mistakes and the errors in his own record,” Mr. Romney said.

He added that he expects voters will conclude that “what he’s saying about himself misrepresents the reality of his record.”

Mr. Romney spent most of his victory speech laying out a vision to compete with Mr. Obama’s plan for higher taxes to support the more expansive role he wants to see government play in spending on the social safety net.

“Under Barack Obama, America hasn’t been working,” he said. “The ironic tragedy is that the community organizer who wanted to help those hurt by a plant closing became the president on whose watch more jobs have been lost than any time since the Great Depression.”

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