By Michael Levenson, Globe Staff
ATLANTA -- Move over Ron Paul and Mike Huckabee.
Mitt Romney firmly embraced the underdog label today, a day before the 21-state mega-contest that could seal his fate.
"I’m definitely the underdog compared to Senator [John] McCain," Romney told reporters in Atlanta. "He’s the frontrunner in the race. A number of folks have proclaimed that, but the nice thing about being the underdog is that we typically win."
Addressing hundreds of supporters at the Georgia Tech Hotel & Conference Center, the former Massachusetts governor continued to hammer the theme that he, not McCain, is the only choice for conservative voters.
"We’re going to hand the liberals in our party a little surprise on Tuesday evening, when we take California, and we take Georgia, and we take states across the country," Romney declared to cheers and applause.
He said he wished however that the mega-contest were being held Friday instead of tomorrow, to give him a few more days push his message.
"I think everybody's who’s an underdog would say I wish had more time," Romney said.
Georgia reporters peppered Romney with questions about whether Huckabee would siphon away conservative votes from his campaign in the South. Romney said he did not believe that was a concern, then asked former Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania to step to the microphone.
Santorum used much stronger language to warn Georgians not to vote for Huckabee or McCain.
"The reason I got in this race is I wanted to make sure a conservative got elected," Santorum said. "I’ve been saying for a year that it isn’t John McCain. I think more and more people are coming to that conclusion—that it’s not John McCain. The alternative—the only alternative—to stop the McCain twisted talk express is Mitt Romney."