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McCain says Romney campaign already in general-election mode

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) dismissed Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum's campaign Wednesday, saying that presumptive nominee Mitt Romney had already redirected his attention to the November match-up against President Obama.

"Mitt Romney has already pivoted to the general-election campaign. Whether Rick Santorum stays in or not, it's now basically irrelevant," McCain said on CNN's "Starting Point."

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The Arizona senator and Romney supporter, though, acknowledged that the former Massachusetts governor "has a lot of ground to make up" in a match-up against the president. 

"It's been a very nasty primary. His [Romney's] unfavorables are high. I'm confident that he will do very well, but the fact is that every day that goes by without being in the general-election campaign mode is a day lost," he said.

"He realizes that and already I think you're going to see, already you're seeing the opening shots of a very spirited campaign."

Romney has aimed to make the case that he is the best candidate to take on Obama in a general election.

"The right thing for us, I think, is to get a nominee as soon as we can and be able to focus on Barack Obama," Romney said on Fox News on Tuesday.

Santorum has strongly disagreed, saying he believes the longer the primary race goes on, "the better it is for the party." He suggested earlier this week that a floor fight at the convention could energize the base. 

Santorum tried to spin his losses in three primaries on Tuesday into a positive, saying he's beginning the "second half" of his GOP presidential campaign.

"Pennsylvania and half the country have yet to be heard," he said. "We're here to make sure their voices will be heard in the next few months."

Romney won the trifecta of Wisconsin, Maryland and Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, a major step toward closing out the primary.

McCain, who endorsed Romney in January, didn't discount the possibility Santorum could win his home state of Pennsylvania in the upcoming April 24 primary, a contest with 72 delegates up for grabs.

"People usually win their own state and that's a given, but there's no way you can do the math and see any other result other than Mitt Romney winning the nomination," McCain said.

McCain also weighed in on potential vice presidential running mates for Romney. The former presidential candidate, whose own controversial choice of former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin created a stir during the 2008 campaign, offered some advice to Romney on his potential decision.

"I would obviously tell him not to rush to judgment, for one thing, but also we have some very highly qualified candidates," McCain said.

He cited Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.), Gov. Mitch Daniels (R-Ind.) and Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-La.) by name, but gave Rubio additional praise.

"I think obviously Marco Rubio would be one of the prime contenders for a whole variety of reasons, including by the way he's been a very impressive senator during the time he has been in the Senate," he said.