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For Romney and Obama, it’s Day 1 of General Election

April 11, 2012 at 12:00 AM EDT
A day after Rick Santorum's exit from the GOP race, Mitt Romney attacked President Obama on spending and big government, while the president ignored the blows and argued again for raising taxes on the rich, accusing Republicans of having the wrong priorities. Judy Woodruff reports on the campaigns' general election strategies.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: The Obama and Romney campaigns opened their head-to-head battle for the presidency in earnest today. In public statements and advertising, they looked to shape their messages for the November election.

MITT ROMNEY (R): The president’s campaign slogan was, what, hope and change. I think that’s changing now to, let’s hope for a change.

JUDY WOODRUFF: For Mitt Romney and President Obama, this amounted to day one of the general election campaign. Rick Santorum’s exit from the Republican race made Romney the party’s presumptive nominee.

And starting on FOX News this morning, he laid out his argument against the president.

MITT ROMNEY: I think it is going to be watershed election for America. Will we remain a free and opportunity-based society, or will we instead be a society driven by large government, taking more and more, spending more and more, and dominating American life?

JUDY WOODRUFF: Later, in Hartford, Connecticut, Romney addressed his own lagging support among women, arguing it’s the president’s policies that have hurt women disproportionately, this as the Republican group Crossroads GPS launched a multimillion-dollar ad campaign in six key swing states against the president’s energy policies.

NARRATOR: No matter how Obama spins it, gas costs too much. Tell Obama, stop blaming others. Work to pass better energy policies.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The president didn’t directly answer the attacks. Instead, at the White House, he argued again for raising taxes on the rich and charged, Republicans have the wrong priorities.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: If we’re going to keep giving somebody like me or some of the people in this room tax breaks that we don’t need and we can’t afford, then one of two things happens: Either you’ve got to borrow more money to pay down a deeper deficit, or you’ve got to demand deeper sacrifices from the middle class and you’ve got to cut investments that help us grow as an economy.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But the Obama campaign took the fight directly to Romney, posting a Web ad reprising some of the candidate’s primary season statements.

MITT ROMNEY: Corporations are people, my friend.

I like being able to fire people who provide services to me.

I was a severely conservative Republican governor.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Meanwhile, the also-rans in the Republican field, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul, remained in the race for now. Gingrich said Tuesday he’s hoping to benefit from Santorum’s departure.

NEWT GINGRICH (R): Obviously, we’d like to get his delegates. And, frankly, on values and on conservatism, I’m much closer to Sen. Santorum’s delegates than Governor Romney is.

JUDY WOODRUFF: As of today, Romney had 664 of the 1,144 convention delegates needed. He looked to collect them in the 19 remaining primaries, as depicted here on the NewsHour’s Vote 2012 Map Center.

But his main focus now is November and defeating the president.