After taking only his second weekend off since Christmas, a relaxed and confident-sounding Mitt Romney acknowledged on Monday what has become conventional wisdom -- that he will most certainly be the Republican Party’s presidential nominee.
Romney, the first guest on Mike Huckabee’s new radio show, said that his rivals aren’t quitting yet but that they don’t stand much of a chance. “It’s kind of hard for anybody to get the delegates to pass me at this stage, so it looks pretty good,” he told Huckabee, the conservative Fox News talk-show host and former Arkansas governor who competed with Romney for the nomination in 2008.
The latest Associated Press count has Romney with 660 delegates – more than twice that of second-place Rick Santorum, who has 281.
Even one of Romney’s remaining competitors – Newt Gingrich – conceded on Sunday that the former Massachusetts governor was “far and away, the most likely Republican nominee.” Asked about Gingrich’s comment, Romney said it did not surprise him. “He and I have spoken from time to time, and actually we’ve also been together with our wives and spoken,” Romney said. “And you know, we’re pretty open-eyed about this; and as we talked about where we are at this stage, in all likelihood I will be the one that gets the delegates to become the nominee.”
With the nominating contest seemingly winding down – although both Gingrich and Santorum are scheduled to campaign through the week – Romney continued to train his sites on President Obama. His campaign sent out an e-mail accusing the administration of wanting to raise taxes on small businesses and job creators – this in advance of a Senate vote on the “Buffet Rule,” which would establish a 30 percent tax rate on anyone whose annual income is more than $2 million, and a slightly lower minimum rate for those making between $1 million and $2 million a year.
Romney also went after the president on foreign policy, arguing that Obama had “disrupted” the relationship with Israel and emboldened the Palestinians by criticizing Israel in his inaugural address at the United Nations and by suggesting that Israel return to its 1967 borders, which Romney says showed a “personal disrespect” to Benjamin Netanyahu. Romney and Netanyahu have a history dating back in 1976, when both men were recruited as corporate advisers for the Boston Consulting Group.
“I think that the right course for America is to stand very united with our allies, to show that there’s not a dime’s worth of distance between us, at least in public,” Romney said when asked by Huckabee how the Israeli relationship would be different were he to become president. “And if we have some private disagreements, why, we keep them in private.”
Responding to Romney's remarks, Obama campaign spokeswoman Lis Smith said the Republican's "bluster on Iran only shows yet again that he will say anything to get elected."
“President Obama has repeatedly stood squarely with Israel and said that no options are off the table to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, including military options," Smith said. "He has put in place the most severe sanctions Iran has ever faced—all while sending a record level of military and security assistance to Israel. Because of those actions, Iran is under greater pressure and more isolated than ever before."
When Huckabee vied with Romney for the GOP nomination in 2008, the two men also feuded. But over the past year, Huckabee has come to Romney’s aid, last year defending Romney’s switch in opposing abortion rights by pointing to Ronald Reagan’s earlier evolution on the position.