By Cameron Joseph - 05/30/12 01:15 AM EDT
Mitt Romney will win the 1,144 delegates required to secure the GOP nomination for president Tuesday with an easy victory in Texas’s Republican primary.
The Associated Press and television news networks projected Romney's victory shortly after the polls closed.
Romney is on pace to take enough of Texas’s 155 delegates to cross the 1,144-delegate threshold to secure the nomination, according to the AP’s tally.
Romney used the win to promise a united Republican Party — and a win in the fall.
"I am honored that Americans across the country have given their support to my candidacy and I am humbled to have won enough delegates to become the Republican Party's 2012 presidential nominee," Romney said in a statement. "Our party has come together with the goal of putting the failures of the last three and a half years behind us."
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus congratulated Romney and used the opportunity to attack Obama. Romney and the RNC have been fundraising together since early May.
"I congratulate Gov. Romney on winning the Texas primary and securing the delegates needed to be our party's official nominee at our convention in Tampa," he said in a statement.
"Gov. Romney will offer America the new direction we so desperately need. We cannot afford four more years of President Obama's big government agenda, deficit spending, and attacks on American free enterprise."
Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, issued a statement that tried to paint the Republican as damaged from the long primary fight.
“Tonight, after six years of trying and millions of dollars spent, and after a year of tepid support against one of the weakest fields in history, Mitt Romney has finally secured enough delegates to become the Republican Party’s presidential nominee," she said. "Romney may have finally gained enough delegates to become the nominee, but what’s been truly remarkable about his path to the nomination is how much damage he's left in his wake as he enters the general election."
Polls suggest Romney and President Obama will be in a tight race between now and Election Day. Obama is up by only two points in the latest Real Clear Politics average of polls.
The big win in Texas comes on a day in which the Romney campaign’s attacks on Obama were eclipsed by real estate mogul and reality television star Donald Trump’s assertions about Obama’s birthplace.
Romney hoped to use Tuesday to focus on Obama’s energy policies and his support of government investment in green energy companies that failed as he continues to hammer the president for his handling of the economy.
But television appearances by Trump, who was also set to attend a Romney fundraiser in Las Vegas Tuesday night, allowed Democrats to fire away on Romney for associating with Trump and his suspicion that Obama is not a U.S. citizen.
In a series of tweets and TV appearances, Trump argued at length that Obama was born in Kenya, despite documented proof from the state of Hawaii that Obama was born there and is a U.S. citizen. Romney has said he believes Obama was born in the U.S.
Romney all but guaranteed himself the nomination when he won Wisconsin’s primary on April 3, and when Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) suspended his campaign a week later most attention pivoted to the general election between Romney and President Obama.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s (R-Ga.) campaign suspension on May 2 and Rep. Ron Paul’s (R-Texas) decision on May 14 not to contest any more primaries eliminated the last of Romney’s competition.
One sign that most in the party have already moved past the primary: Romney met Tuesday afternoon with Gingrich and Sheldon Adelson, the man who bankrolled a pro-Gingrich super-PAC. Gingrich has already endorsed Romney, and their meeting is a sign that Adelson might be willing to come on board soon.
Texas once seemed destined to be a key primary contest — it was originally scheduled for April 3 and both Santorum’s and Gingrich’s campaigns had held it out as an example of a delegate-rich state they might win — but local political drama forced the state to move its primary back. The state’s GOP-controlled legislature drew a redistricting map federal officials deemed illegal because it discriminated against minorities, and they had to move the primary to late May in order to put a new court-drawn map in place.
The move likely helped Romney wrap up the nomination sooner — he struggled throughout the primaries in southern states and if Texas had voted while Santorum and Gingrich were still in the race it could have further prolonged the primary.
Updated at 10:10 p.m.