Washington – Republican multi-millionaire Mitt Romney has long set his sights on the White House, and on Tuesday moved a step closer towards a dream first born when he followed his father on the campaign trail.
The photogenic, immaculately-coiffed Romney’s presidential run is powered by deep pockets and focuses on his background as a successful businessman who created jobs and, he argues, “knows how the economy works”.
After trading life as a venture capitalist for a political career in 1994, Romney, 65, tried and failed to wrest a Massachusetts senate seat from Ted Kennedy.
But his rescue of the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake helped catapult him into the governor’s chair in Massachusetts. He only served one term however, from 2003 to 2007, having already set his sights even higher – on the White House.
After failing to win the Republican nomination in the 2008 race, when he was defeated by veteran Senator John McCain, Romney brought his brimming war chest and his organizational savvy into the 2012 race.
He out-spent and out-manoeuvred the other candidates, and on Tuesday his chief rival Rick Santorum bowed before the inevitable and dropped out of the race, effectively handing Romney the Republican crown.
But now he faces a much bigger fight, as he readies to take on Democratic President Barack Obama in the November election – set to be a tougher battle than the nominating race in which Romney from the start was the man to beat.
Romney has only once briefly overtaken Obama in polls taking the pulse of a general election, and the respected website Real Clear Politics said on Tuesday that in an average of all surveys Obama stood 5.3% points ahead.
Romney boasts a brimming war-chest, a glut of high-profile endorsements and an organizational network that are the envy of his rivals, but he lacks one commodity that could yet be telling: solid conservative credentials.
During his 2003 to 2007 tenure, Romney built a reputation as a moderate dealmaker inspiring an iron-clad, albeit Democrat-dominated, alliance that gave birth to the largest universal health care program at the state level in the United States.
He has subsequently distanced himself from his crowning gubernatorial achievement as the program served as a model for the nationwide plan created by Obama in 2010, despised by most Republicans.
This fits seamlessly into the narrative, already being perpetuated by White House attack ads, that Romney is the king of flip-floppers, someone who will do or say anything just to get elected.
Romney’s triumph has ultimately come down to math: winning in key states to pick up the most delegates, reinforcing a claim to be the candidate most able to defeat Obama in November.
But with his opponents having won many traditionally conservative states such as Georgia, Tennessee, Oklahoma and North Dakota, critics say Romney has failed to connect with key parts of the Republican base.
Romney has more or less been campaigning for the presidency since standing down as Massachusetts governor in early 2007.
This has been a blessing and a curse so far in the 2012 campaign: he has the experience of a failed nomination run in 2008 to build on, but his superior funding has attracted claims that he is buying his way to the White House.