Romney exultant in closing pitch

TAMPA, Fla. — Mitt Romney was exultant Monday night in his final pitch to Florida voters before a crowd of about 5,000 retirees.

"This really is a campaign, in my view, about the soul of America," Romney said.

"This is such an exciting time," Romney told the crowd in The Villages, Fla., a retirement community.

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Romney's confidence he is on the verge of a huge victory in Florida seemed reflected in the departures from his normal stump routine.

For weeks, Romney has been reciting verses of "America the Beautiful" on the campaign trail in a monotone; on Monday, for the first time, Romney led his crowd in singing the iconic hymn.

In another variation, Romney made no references to top rival Newt Gingrich, whom he has attacked during campaign events in Florida with increasing intensity.

Instead, he kept his focus trained on Democrats and President Obama, whom he'll face if a victory in Florida leads to the GOP nomination. 

Some of his comments even seemed pointed more to a general election campaign than a primary. 

"I understand a few of you here are on Medicare," he said, prompting laughter from the mostly elderly audience. "I hope you tell your friends who somehow fear Republicans will go after Medicare: We will never go after Medicare and Social Security."

Less than two weeks ago, Romney was knocked back by a double-digit defeat to Gingrich in South Carolina, upending his position of dominance over the 2012 field. But on the eve of Florida's crucial primary, polls show Romney with a lead over Gingrich of between 5 and 20 points.

As his wife, Ann Romney, welcomed him to the stage, she summoned her grandson, Parker Romney, to repeat to the crowd what he had remarked when he saw the number of people who had turned out to support his grandfather's presidential ambitions.

"It looks like Papa is gonna win."

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