FITCHBURG, Wis. – A confident Mitt Romney predicted victory in the hotly contested Wisconsin primary next Tuesday, saying during a campaign stop here Saturday afternoon that a state he once thought would be “an uphill battle” is looking “better and better.”
But even as he pivots to a general election by shifting his campaign rhetoric to take aim at President Obama, Romney insisted he is still focused on securing the Republican presidential nomination and said, “I’m not counting the delegates before they hatch.”
During a visit to a call center for embattled Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who faces a bitter recall election later this spring, Romney boasted that his support across Wisconsin is deepening.
“It feels better and better,” Romney said in brief remarks to GOP activists. “The support for my campaign is growing stronger and stronger. This was an uphill battle for me if you look back three or four weeks ago, and now we’re looking like we’re going to win this thing on Tuesday. But I gotta have you guys get out and vote.”
Romney was accompanied here by his newest supporter, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), the House Budget Committee chairman whose endorsement has been coveted. Romney holds a small lead in recent state polls. In this week’s NBC News/Marist survey of likely Republican primary voters, Romney led his closest opponent, former senator Rick Santorum, 40 percent to 33 percent.
When a reporter asked him what a victory in Wisconsin would mean for his candidacy nationally, Romney said it would put him “on a path that will get me the nomination well before the convention.”
“I think all of us in the contest are focusing more and more on President Obama, as we should,” Romney said. “I think his failures are becoming more glaring to the American people. He’s begun his national campaign, from what I read. He’s making speeches that sound like the start of a campaign, and I think you’re seeing all four of us that are in the race still focusing on him.”
“I’ve got a ways to go before I get 1,144 delegates,” Romney said, referencing the threshold required to secure the nomination. “So I’m not counting the delegates before they hatch. But I’m going to keep working very hard and hope I get a good strong send-off from Wisconsin.”
Romney was greeted by dozens of protesters outside Walker’s campaign call center in Fitchburg, just outside of Madison, the state capital and a liberal enclave. As Romney and Ryan pulled up in a black Chevrolet Suburban, protesters shouted, “Shame! Shame!” Some women held up signs reading, “Keep Your Mitt(s) Off Birth Control.”