TOLEDO, Ohio — Fresh off his two-state sweep of the Arizona and Michigan primaries, Mitt Romney carried his new momentum to a steel distributor here in Ohio, where voters will head to the polls next week as part of the all-important Super Tuesday contests. The ten states voting March 6 will go a long way in determining whether one of the former Massachusetts governor’s GOP rivals can stop his march toward the party’s presidential nomination.
“It was a big night, last night for me, I was pleased,” Mr. Romney told crowd of about 100 people gathered inside the Universal Metals LLC warehouse. “People who said that the economy and jobs were the No. 1 issue, they voted for me overwhelmingly.”
Mr. Romney handily won the Arizona contest and then squeezed out a smaller victory over Rick Santorum in his home state of Michigan — though the former Pennsylvania senator earned a solid consolation prize by capturing nearly as many delegates to the national convention.
Standing on a stage here in front of massive steel coils used to make posts, Mr. Romney stuck to the basic stump speech he continued to hone on the campaign trail in Michigan.
He promised to move away from what he views as the Obama administration’s failure to reduce national spending, shrink the size of government and get people back to work — hammering the tax reform plan the president rolled out last week and the administration’s failure to green-light the massive Canada-to-Texas Keystone XL oil pipeline.
He also took particular aim at China, accusing Beijing of manipulating the country’ currency for trade advantage by making its products less expensive.
“How do you think that China has been so successful in taking away our jobs? Well, let me tell you how — by cheating,” he said.
He said that if he is president that will end.
“On day one, I will declare China a currency manipulator, allowing me to put tariffs on products when they are stealing American jobs unfairly,” he said. “We can compete when there is a level playing field and we can win.”
And he tried to distance himself from his three GOP rivals, who also include former House Speaker Mitt Romney and Texas Rep. Ron Paul, contrasting the 25 years he spent in the business world against the long political careers of the other Republicans still in the race.
“Do you want someone who spent his life in the private sector, who understands where jobs come from, or do you want someone who spent his career in Washington?” he said. “There are a couple of guys who spent their entire career in Washington, you can vote for them. I just don’t think we are going to beat Barack Obama and get our country back on track if we have guys whose resumes look like his resume.”
Mr. Santorum, once considered a long shot for the nomination, on Wednesday was claiming a moral victory in coming so close in Michigan.
“We just gave Mitt Romney the fight of his life in his home state and now we are in for a long, important battle to the convention,” Mr. Santorum said in a fundraising email to supporters in which he reminded voters that he will need to raise lots of money to compete in the ten states that vote in six days. “We had a great fight in Michigan, but we can’t let up. Now is the time. Let’s do what Americans always do when faced with a challenge — we fight.”
The Romney camp, meanwhile, signaled that it will be reminding voters that Mr. Santorum aggressively courted Democrats in his failed attempt to win Michigan, releasing a new “LIBERAL DEMOCRATS FOR SANTORUM” in which self-identified Michigan Democrats say they supported Mr. Santorum in an attempt to protect President Obama from facing Mr. Romney.
“Rick Santorum made a colossal mistake by inviting Democrats to come into the Republican primary in Michigan. It may have helped him win the Democrat vote, but he lost decisively among Republicans,” said Matt Rhoades, Mr. Romney’s campaign manager. “If the only way Rick Santorum thinks he can win an election is to recruit Democrats to vote against Mitt Romney, he needs to reevaluate why he is even in this race. Republicans should choose the nominee, not Democrats. Rick Santorum needs to apologize and pledge that he won’t resort to these dirty tactics on Super Tuesday.”