How should Mitt Romney shift his campaign now?

Mitt Romney is moving closer to sewing up the GOP nomination – and is acting like the presumptive nominee. But he has a lot of work ahead to catch President Obama in the polls. 

By , Staff Writer

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    Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney speaks in Milwaukee last Tuesday.
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Even some of the most anti-Romney Republicans seem to be accepting that Mitt Romney will be their party's nominee.

In the latest Associated Press poll of the GOP's unpledged superdelegates (who can support any candidate they choose at the August convention), Mr. Romney picked up 11 new endorsements over the previous month's poll.

(Of the 114 superdelegates polled, 35 say they support Romney, compared with four for Newt Gingrich, two for Rick Santorum, and one for Ron Paul. The rest are still publicly neutral.)

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And Mr. Gingrich, who has scaled back his campaign, admitted on Fox News Sunday that Romney was likely to be the nominee and said that he'll support him at the convention, assuming he gets the 1,144 delegates he needs to sew up the nomination. He also said that Romney has “done a very good job of building a very substantial machine” that could defeat President Obama.

But beating Mr. Obama appears to be a daunting challenge. Polls don't show Romney doing well against the president, and Romney doesn't generate great enthusiasm among many of the Republican faithful.

Pundits and conservatives are full of advice for Romney, though it seems to vary a lot.

Washington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin, author of the influential Right Turn blog, suggests he beef up his policy, focusing on health care (she suggests he develop an alternative to Obamacare), energy policy, and entitlement reforms, and let Obama be the more negative candidate. She also advises Romney to resist the temptation to "pander to women," despite the fact that polls show women in key swing states preferring Obama by wide margins.

Chris Cillizza, meanwhile – also at the Post, but without a partisan bent – agrees that Romney needs to work on his health-care response (mostly so that Obama can't invalidate his criticism of the national law by claiming his Massachusetts law was the blueprint). Otherwise he writes that Romney mostly needs to start appealing to a broader audience: sit down with national media outlets, increase his wife's visibility, find ways to talk about Mormonism effectively, and find ways to break with hard-line conservatives and increase his appeal to independents.

What tack will Romney take? Technically, he's got a long way to go before he gets the delegates needed. At this point, according to the AP count, Romney has 660, compared with 281 for Santorum, 135 for Gingrich, and 51 for Paul. If he continues at this pace (he has 58 percent of the delegates so far), he'll clinch the nomination by June 5.

But he's already starting to act like the nominee.

He took a short break from campaigning over the weekend, and also decided to pull all of his negative ads in Pennsylvania while Santorum is temporarily off the campaign trail due to his daughter's hospitalization – an easier step to take now that Santorum doesn't feel like much of a threat.

In a Monday interview on Mike Huckabee's radio show, Romney said that "It’s kind hard for anybody to get the delegates to pass me at this stage, so it looks pretty good." He also said that he welcomed Gingrich's comments and wasn't surprised by them. He said that he and Gingrich speak fairly regularly and said that Gingrich is "pretty open-eyed about this." 

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