Romney expects to fight on past Tuesday

The former Massachusetts governor said the number of states up for grabs, his prospects of succeeding in some of the 20-plus GOP contests that day, as well as a growing concern within the Republican Party about conferring the nomination on McCain give him reason to fight on. Romney said he plans to speak Thursday at the Conservative Political Action Conference convention in Washington, although he conceded he may pare his staff after Tuesday's elections surpass the halfway point in the nomination battle. "I'm planning on doing well on Tuesday, planning on getting the kind of delegates and support that shows that my effort is succeeding, and taking that across the nation," he told reporters as he flew to Minnesota from Utah after attending the funeral of Mormon church President Gordon B. Hinckley. During a news conference Friday in Denver, Romney passed on three chances to vow he would carry on, prompting speculation he could drop out of the race as early as Wednesday in Boston. He said Saturday: "We're still early in the process, seven states in. We've got 22 coming up on Tuesday. I expect to pick up a number of those states, and I don't think anybody's going to have the necessary number as of Tuesday night, and so we have time. It's a funny thing about how sentiment ebbs and flows in this race, and has ebbed and flowed in this race. And I am encouraged by the support which I'm seeing grow for me." During a news conference late in Minneapolis, Romney celebrated a caucus victory Saturday in Maine, noting that it came despite McCain's backing by the two U.S. senators in Maine, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins. "This is a people's victory," Romney said. "It is, in my view, also an indication that conservative change is something that the American people want to see. I think you're going to see a growing movement across this country to get behind my candidacy and to propel this candidacy forward. I think it's a harbinger of what you're going to see on Tuesday." While Romney has lost major head-to-head contests against McCain in New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida, he preferred to focus on his prior victories in Wyoming, Michigan and Nevada. "With this, that gives me the edge 4-3," he said with a chuckle. "I don't weigh 'em all the same, of course." Nonetheless, with the fact that 29 states will have by Wednesday, Romney plans to review his budget. While he has outraised the field, he has also been his campaign's largest single contributor, donating $35 million to his committee. "We have a very substantial staff, as you know, not what's here but back in Boston, and we had a big staff in Iowa, Florida, New Hampshire," he said. "That's a much larger staff than you have as you go on to these subsequent primaries. So, we'll have the people needed where we're going to need them." more stories like this McCain beat Romney last Tuesday in the Florida primary, his third major head-to-head victory over Romney. In the aftermath, the Arizona senator picked up high-profile endorsements from former rival Rudy Giuliani, as well as California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Texas Gov. Rick Perry. His newspaper endorsements have also swamped those going to Romney, but the former governor said bedrock conservatives are coming to his side, driven by supportive commentary from conservative media voices such as Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham. Romney also said his campaign has seen an uptick in donations - $345,000 in one day last week versus a typical daily take of $50,000 - as the race has crystallized into a two-man contest between him and McCain. Two other candidates, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, have lagged in national public opinion surveys and the GOP delegate count. "I think one of the dynamics that changed is that conservative Republican and mainstream Republicans, all over the country, in the last 48 hours or so, have concentrated on the prospect of Senator McCain being our nominee and are saying, `That's not the direction we want to go,'" Romney said. He has accused McCain of being out of the Republican mainstream on taxes and immigration, and he has hit on McCain saying that economic matters are not his strength. McCain has accused Romney of flip-flopping on an array of partisan issues, and said that Romney lacks his understanding of military matters and foreign affairs. Romney told reporters: "The resolution of Iraq will become more clear in people's mind, but the lack of resolution of our economy will become more of a concern. And I know there will be some who say this is just a short-term thing, it's just a bump in the road, everything is fine. But I see far more concern long-term in our economy than I think a lot of people want to acknowledge." In his unusually introspective session, Romney said he had not given any thought to his plans should he quit the race. "There'll be plenty of time for thinking if I don't win," he said. He also declared he was not stressed about the precarious state of his campaign. "This is not something I'm doing because I need or I want it desperately for myself," he said. "I believe the country could benefit from the experience I've had, but that is not what motivates me." In addition, Romney reflected on the massive funeral he had just attended among his fellow members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Romney met with Hinckley several times when he was running the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics, as well as once on a personal basis before launching his presidential campaign. If successful, Romney would become the first Mormon elected president. "Obviously, for the president of our church, it was a much larger ceremony than you'd normally enjoy," he said. "It was very tender. It was very easy to listen to and not be emotional."
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