WASHINGTON Mitt Romney clinched the Republican presidential nomination Tuesday with a win in the Texas primary, a triumph of endurance for a candidate who came up short four years ago and had to fight hard this year as voters flirted with a carousel of GOP rivals.
According to the Associated Press count, Romney surpassed the 1,144 delegates needed to win the nomination by winning at least 88 delegates in the Texas primary.
The former Massachusetts governor has reached the nomination milestone with a steady message of concern about the U.S. economy, a campaign organization that dwarfed those of his GOP foes and a fundraising operation second only to that of his Democratic opponent in the general election, President Barack Obama.
Romney would be the first Mormon nominated by a major party. His religion has been less of an issue than it was during his failed bid four years ago.
We did it! Romney proclaimed in a message to supporters, noting that its only the beginning.
I am honored that Americans across the country have given their support to my candidacy and I am humbled to have won enough delegates to become the Republican Partys 2012 presidential nominee, he said in a statement.
Our party has come together with the goal of putting the failures of the last three and a half years behind us, Romney said. I have no illusions about the difficulties of the task before us. But whatever challenges lie ahead, we will settle for nothing less than getting America back on the path to full employment and prosperity.
Romney must now fire up conservatives who still doubt him while persuading swing voters that he can do a better job fixing the nations struggling economy than Obama. In Obama, he faces a well-funded candidate with a proven campaign team in an election that will be heavily influenced by the economy.
Romney went on the attack Tuesday, releasing a web video citing the Obama administrations loan-guarantee investments in four renewable-energy firms that lost money and laid off workers.
The message President Obama is fundamentally hostile to job creators has been a theme of the Romney campaign since he launched his presidential bid. But sensing an opportunity to reach a new audience, the campaign planned to highlight Obamas support for the failed renewable energy company Solyndra, among other private ventures the Obama administration helped support.
We need to have presidents who understand how this economy works, Romney told reporters Tuesday. Sometimes I just dont think he understands what it takes to help people. I know he wants to help, but he doesnt know what hes got to do.
Republicans wont officially nominate Romney until late August at the GOP national convention in Tampa. Romney has 1,174 convention delegates.