Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney inched closer to his party's nomination on Tuesday with a sweep of the GOP primaries in Wisconsin, Maryland and the District of Columbia, and found himself in his first direct engagement with President Obama.
Romney emerged from the evening with substantial gains in delegates and a growing perception that he was winning over previously reluctant elements of the party, or if nothing else, just plain outlasting his more conservative competition.
Either way, this was in some respects the start of the general election.
Obama for the first time singled Romney out by name, during an address dedicated to a budget championed by Romney’s marquee endorser in Wisconsin, Rep. Paul Ryan.
The President called Ryan's plan “social Darwinism” and said of Romney, “He said that he’s ‘very supportive’ of this new budget, and he even called it ‘marvelous,’ which is a word you don’t often hear when it comes to describing a budget."
"It’s a word you don’t hear generally.”
Referring obliquely to perceptions of his potential opponent’s elite pedigree, Obama sought to cast himself as more in touch with the public.