Mitt Romney, with nod to Ronald Reagan, asking voters how life has improved under Obama

MANCHESTER, N.H.—Mitt Romney implicitly accepted the Republican presidential nomination Tuesday night, leaving behind the intraparty fighting that at times sullied his candidacy and vowing to defeat President Obama with a pledge to restore both the economy and Americans’ belief in the future.

Speaking as results were showing he was on the verge of sweeping five primaries, Romney reflected only briefly on the path that led him back to New Hampshire for a boisterous victory rally.

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“After 43 primaries and caucuses, many long days and more than a few long nights, I can say with confidence – and gratitude – that you have given me a great honor and solemn responsibility,” Romney told supporters at the Radisson hotel in downtown Manchester.

“To all of the thousands of good and decent Americans I’ve met who want nothing more than a better chance, a fighting chance,” Romney added. “To all of you, I have a simple message: Hold on a little longer. A better America begins tonight.”

Peppering his speech with such terms as “destiny” and appealing to traditional American notions of hard work and sacrifice, Romney steered clear of any political issue except the stuttering economy and the enduring pain of strapped Americans.

At one point, he paid homage to the campaign slogans of both Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton in their bids to defeat an incumbent president during economic turmoil.

“Is it easier to make ends meet? Is it easier to sell your home or buy a new one?” he said, as the crowd cheered “NO!”

“Have you saved what you needed for retirement? Are you making more AT your job? Do you have a better chance to get a better job? Are you paying less at the pump?”

“It’s still about the economy,” Romney added, bluntly. “And we’re not stupid.”

Romney also attempted to reintroduce himself to a national electorate that may not have been following the twists and turns of the Republican primary. He talked about his business successes, his wife, and his father – adding that he would bore the country with tales of his grandchildren.

“You might have heard that I was successful in business. And that rumor is true,” Romney said. “You might not have heard that our business helped start other businesses, like Staples and Sports Authority and a new steel mill and a learning center called Bright Horizons.”

In what is essentially the crux of his campaign going forward, he added, “After 25 years, I know how to lead us out of this stagnant Obama economy and into a job-creating recovery.”

President Obama’s campaign accused Romney of distorting the facts and ignoring some of the problems that Obama inherited.

“Mitt Romney has spent the last several months making dishonest attacks against the President’s record, so it’s no surprise that his speech tonight will be full of even more distortions,” said Lis Smith, an Obama campaign spokeswoman. “Here is the truth: when the President took office, we were losing 750,000 jobs a month because of the failed Bush policies — policies that Mitt Romney would bring back if elected.”

After months of tense election nights, spent waiting for voters to have their say in a volatile Republican nominating contest, the results Tuesday night were predictable.

Before 9 p.m., Romney had been declared the winner in Delaware, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. Minutes after his speech, New York was added to his victory toll.

The contests were the first without Rick Santorum, who ended his campaign two weeks ago. Newt Gingrich was considering a reassessment of his campaign, potentially ending a quixotic campaign that briefly threw a scare into Romney’s team before they buried him in attack ads.

If Gingrich drops out, the only candidate officially remaining in the race would be Ron Paul, who has yet to win a primary.

Over the past several weeks, Romney has been quietly revamping his campaign for the coming months. He’s hiring more staff, creating a fundraising program to attract top donors, and meeting with officials at the Republican National Committee to begin coordinating efforts.

He appointed longtime aide Beth Myers to head up a vice presidential search, and Romney has been campaigning with several likely prospects. He’s also started turning his attention to several key swing states, campaigning in Pennsylvania on Monday, traveling to New Hampshire on Tuesday, and planning to be in Ohio on Friday.

For Romney, the rally, held in a ballroom with exposed brick at the Radisson hotel in downtown Manchester, brought his campaign full circle. He announced his presidential bid just 30 miles away, in a field in Strafford, N.H.

Now, Romney is the presumed nominee of the Republican Party, about to capture a prize that eluded his father, George, who ran in 1968, and Romney himself, who ran in 2008.

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