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Romney praises Santorum before pivoting to general election

Hours after Rick Santorum bowed out of the Presidential race, front-runner and now presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney offered some strong words of support for his toughest opponent, before immediately pivoting to his upcoming general election battle against President Obama.

“He has made an important contribution to the political process, has brought forward issues he cares very deeply about and has been able to gather a great deal of public support and interest in those issues and in himself,” Romney said about Santorum while speaking at a steel plant in Wilmington, DE. “He will continue to have a major role in the Republican Party.”

Romney appeared at ease and upbeat during the event, even taking unplanned questions from the audience.  

That could be because Santorum’s exit essentially clears the path for Romney to the nomination. Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul remain in the race, but neither has a viable path to attaining the 1144 delegates needed.  The Republican Party is falling into step, immediately coalescing around him.

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, a former supporter of Rick Perry and a rising star in the GOP, issued a statement offering support in “retiring President Obama.”  

Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey, who had vowed to stay neutral in his state’s upcoming primary, also endorsed Romney at a local dinner, calling him “exactly the kind of leader our country needs to solve our fiscal crisis and restore American prosperity.”

With the internal battle among Republicans drawing to a close, Romney is now able to turn his full attention toward the general election.

He opened a new line of attack against President Obama today: women.

Playing off recent criticisms by Democrats claiming that Republicans are waging a war on women over access to contraceptives, Rommey declared, “The real war on women has been waged by the Obama administration's failure on the economy."  He went on to say 92.3% of people who lost their jobs under Obama were women, saying they’ve suffered disproportionately under this president.

A spokesperson for Obama’s re-election campaign responded to the new attacks saying, “The president has worked every day to help restore women’s economic security: from signing the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act, which makes it easier for women to receive equal pay for equal work, to ensuring women don’t pay more than men for their healthcare and supporting women-owned small businesses to federal contracting programs.”

Attracting female voters will be necessary to victory in November, and early polls have Romney at a distinct disadvantage. A recent ABC News/Washington Post poll shows Obama with a 19-point lead over Romney among women, far outweighing Romney’s advantage among men.