On the eve of Wisconsin's Republican presidential primary, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum campaigned in the state with two different missions: Romney worked to pivot toward President Barack Obama and the November general election, while Santorum fought to keep his candidacy viable.
"His vision of a perfect world is a big-spending big government," Romney said of Obama yesterday at a lumber supply company in a suburb of Green Bay. "My vision of a more perfect world is a smaller government spending less and letting the people keep more."
The former Massachusetts governor also characterized Obama as out of touch with the woes of average Americans. "These are tough times for Americans and he has not done the job people expected him to do," Romney said.
Lis Smith, an Obama campaign spokeswoman, responded with an email attacking Romney's gubernatorial record.
"We've seen what happens when Mitt Romney is in charge and it's greatly at odds with his message today of more jobs, less debt, and smaller government," she said. "During his four years as governor, Massachusetts had the fourth-worst job creation rate of any state in the nation, debt increased by 16 percent, government jobs grew six times as fast as private sector jobs, and taxes increased by $750 million each year."
Romney, 65, wants to focus more attention on Obama while seeking to wrap up his party's nomination. His next test comes today in a trio of primaries in Wisconsin, Maryland and Washington, D.C., as party leaders increasingly join Romney in trying to bring a swift conclusion to the nominating contest.
Santorum, 53, a former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania, dismissed Romney's organizational and financial advantages.
A contested convention in Tampa in August would be an "energizing thing" for Republicans, Santorum said. Whoever wins the nomination would get the party's backing and have little difficulty raising money or expanding the campaign staff, he said.
Still, with polls showing him behind in Wisconsin, Santorum's campaign has taken on the air of a Midwestern family vacation. He made a stop at a cheese store in Appleton, headed behind the deli counter to cook a grilled cheese sandwich, and indulged in a lunchtime beer.