Mitt Romney attacked President Obama as “the hide-and-seek president" Wednesday in his first appearance after his primary sweep Tuesday evening.
Speaking to a conference of news editors, Romney laid out a choice between himself and Obama in a speech that signaled his focus has shifted to the general election. He also used his remarks to contrast his own background and detailed economic plan with a president he said had no answers for the country.
Romney was addressing the same group Obama spoke to on Tuesday — in that speech, the president mentioned his GOP rival by name for the first time, signaling his own shift into campaign mode.
Obama poked fun at the former Massachusetts governor in his remarks, noting that Romney had called House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan's (R-Wis.) budget "marvelous, which is a word you don’t often hear when it comes to describing a budget.
“It’s a word you don’t often hear generally,” Obama said to laughter from the crowd.
Romney didn't make any mocking remarks about the president. Nor did he make any mention of the three Republican primary opponents he defeated the night before in a clean sweep of contests in Wisconsin, Maryland and the District of Columbia.
Instead, Romney projected the confidence and certainty of a presumed nominee as he railed against what he called Obama’s attempts to hide the ball from the American public.
“He does not want to share his real plans before the election, either with the public or with the press,” Romney said. “He is intent on hiding. You and I will have to do the seeking.”
Breaking with his usual stump-speech routine, Romney recounted his personal story at length, describing how his economic philosophy was influenced by a family that made the most out of its opportunities.
“My grandfather was in the construction business and he never really made it himself,” Romney said. “But he convinced my dad that he could accomplish anything he set his mind to.”
Romney said he considered staying in Michigan, where his father served as governor, to work in the auto industry, but didn’t want to walk through life wondering if his success had been given to him by to his father. So he took a job in Massachusetts after finishing business school.
“Over the next 25 years, my business career had many ups and downs, great successes, definite failures, but each step of the way, I learned more about the power of our great free enterprise system,” he said.
Romney didn’t get the standing ovation from the Newspaper Association of America that Obama did, and he acknowledged what he said was the perception of bias among reporters. He also made clear his objections to how the modern media has altered the game for candidates like himself.
“In 2008, the coverage was about what I said in my speech,” Romany said. “These days, it’s about what brand of jeans I am wearing and what I ate for lunch.”
But Romney saved his toughest rhetoric for Democrats and Obama, whom he said had obstructed economic recovery with almost every policy that Obama has pursued.
“My liberal friends say they love a strong economy but they just don’t like business very much,” he said. “And the economy is simply the addition of all the businesses in America.”
Pressure is mounting on Romney’s primary opponents to bow out of the race now that Romney is more than halfway to the 1,144 delegates he needs to conclusively clinch the nomination.
Newt Gingrich has scaled back his campaign substantially and is focused on holding Romney and the party platform to a conservative message. Rick Santorum has dismissed all calls for him to exit, especially ahead of the April 24 primary in his home state of Pennsylvania.
“No, I haven’t,” Romney said when asked if he had spoken to the other candidates about dropping out.
“But now that you bring it up ...” he joked.
— This story was updated at 1:41 p.m.