With the primaries now history, Mitt Romney used his speech in New Hampshire last night to re-introduce himself to America.
Gone are the phrases that appealed only to the GOP base like "severely conservative" and even "Obamacare." In their place, terms like "fairness" aimed at wooing independent voters - the lynchpin for any successful presidential candidate.
To be sure, Romney's vision of fairness looks a lot different than President Obama's.
While the president talks about the wealthy paying their fair share in taxes, Romney focused on "the unfairness of urban children being denied access to the good schools of their choice" and the "unfairness of requiring union workers to contribute to politicians not of their choosing."
Moreover, Romney acknowledged the work that he has ahead of him to narrow that likability gap.
"In the days ahead, I look forward to spending time with many of you personally," he said. "I want to hear what's on your mind, hear about your concerns, and learn about your families. I want to know what you think we can do to make this country better…and what you expect from your next president.
"And I'll tell you a little bit about myself. I'll probably start out talking about my wonderful wife Ann - I usually do - and I'll probably bore you with stories about our kids and grandkids."
Mostly though, Romney made it clear that this campaign was going to be a referendum on the economy. Period.
"It's still about the economy," Romney said in a line that is sure to show up in his campaign's ads, "and we're not stupid."
DEMOCRATIC COUNTER-PROGRAMMING: Last night was Mitt Romney's moment to more fully embrace his role as the Republican presidential nominee than ever before, but his opponents aren't giving him much time to savor his victory.
-OBAMA CAMPAIGN HAMMERS ROMNEY ON STUDENT LOANS. The Obama campaign went up with a new video this morning, part of their "Mitt Romney Versus Reality" series that calls into question Romney's comments this week that he fully supports "the effort to extend the low interest rate on student loans," saying that it does not square with Romney's support of Rep. Paul Ryan's budget proposal that would hike rates on loans. WATCH: http://bit.ly/Jmr0C9
-PRO-OBAMA SUPER PAC PUTS $1 MILLION BEHIND NEW AD CAMPAIGN. The pro-Obama super PAC Priorities USA Action along with the League of Conservation Voters Victory Fund are going on the air with a new television ad titled "$200 Million Man" which both groups say is aimed at calling out "Governor Romney's pledge to protect Big Oil's profits and billions in special tax breaks, at the expense of middle class Americans." The groups are putting money where their message is, telling ABC News they are spending a combined $1 million on the ad, which will run on TV stations in Colorado and Nevada starting today. Paul Begala, a senior advisor for Priorities USA Action, said in a statement: "While President Obama is taking serious action to make America less dependent on dirty and dangerous sources of Middle East oil and create clean energy jobs here at home, Governor Romney and the oil companies bankrolling his campaign are profiting from high gas prices politically and financially." WATCH the ad: http://bit.ly/K7qsfO
ABC's DAVID MUIR: In a telling sign of her ever increasing role, it was Ann Romney who actually delivered that new campaign line first last night. Mrs. Romney telling supporters, "Because of you, a better America begins tonight." Get ready for much more of Mrs. Romney.
ABC's AMY WALTER: It's not just the Tea Party that is pushing moderates out of the party. In Pennsylvania last night, two Blue Dogs, Jason Altmire and Tim Holden, lost primaries to more liberal challengers, with the help of labor and liberal activists. In particular, labor took pride in helping to defeat Altmire - one of the handful of Democrats still in Congress who voted against Obama's health care bill.
ABC's RICK KLEIN: Newt Gingrich's hard-fought battle to secure zero delegates yesterday has him promising to take a "realistic" look at his options. Enter your punch line here, but Newt's timeline has real implications. His Secret Service protection makes for a cheap (except to taxpayers) way to campaign long enough to retire his debt. And his Super PAC has some $5 million in the bank, looking to be put to some use in ways that may interest Mitt Romney.
ABC's MICHAEL FALCONE: It's pretty much a moot point since we all know how this story ends, but if we're going to be technical about it, the one key word Rick Santorum didn't utter in his interview last night with CNN's Piers Morgan was this one: "Endorse." Santorum aides tell me that nothing the former candidate said should be regarded as an official endorsement of Romney. He wants to do it on his own terms, when he's ready.
VIDEO OF THE DAY: In case you missed it, here's Jake Tapper's "World News" report on President Obama's efforts to recapture the magic among young voters this year that he enjoyed in 2008. WATCH: http://abcn.ws/I9xYN3
SYNCHRONIZE WATCHES: RNC AND ROMNEY CAMPAIGN LINK UP. The Republican National and the Romney campaign will be stepping up their coordination efforts in a big way and key Romney players will be assisting with that, including Romney confidants like Ben Ginsberg, Ron Kaufman, Kevin Madden and Brian Jones. "Governor Romney's strong performance and delegate count at this stage of the primary process has made him our party's presumptive nominee. In order to maximize our efforts I have directed my staff at the RNC to open lines of communication with the Romney campaign," RNC Chairman Reince Preibus said in a statement e-mailed to ABC News. "We will ensure that our finance, political and communications teams are fully synchronized. I am excited that these two top-notch operations will start to integrate and present a unified team to defeat Barack Obama." But RNC officials were careful to note: "Unlike the previous cycles, there will be no Deputy Chairman / staff take over, etc which is testament to the Chairman's work, the trust the Romney campaign has in the operation and the close personal and professional relationships of the two organizations."
HOW PRIMARY NIGHT PLAYED.
New York Times front page: "Romney, in Victory Lap, Focuses on Obama" http://nyti.ms/IEBquO
Washington Post, below the fold: "Five-state sweep: Romney won by wide margins in New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Delaware, and Rhode Island" http://wapo.st/ID52ch
Wall Street Journal: "Romney Marches Toward GOP Nomination" http://on.wsj.com/J8XkUD
with ABC's Christopher Good ( @c_good)
OBAMA ON STUDENT DEBT: I'VE BEEN THERE. Campaigning against a student-loan rate hike, President Obama told students at the University of Colorado in Boulder that he and Michelle "didn't come from well-to-do backgrounds. We didn't have famous families. … Michelle and I - we know about this first-hand … This is not something I read about in a briefing book. This is not something abstract to us. We've been in your shoes." http://abcn.ws/JIVgIx
NOTED: YOGURT ON OBAMA'S PANTS. A young woman spilled yogurt on the president outside The Sink Restaurant and Bar in Boulder, ABC's Devin Dwyer reports. Obama reassured her, "Getting yogurt on the president, you've got a story to tell." http://abcn.ws/I49UFq
ALSO NOTED: OBAMA SLOW-JAMS THE NEWS WITH JIMMY FALLON. Obama stumped on loan rates over backup grooves with the late-night host. Fallon added: "The Pell grant is a beautiful thing, but with college getting more expensive, is it enough by itself to satisfy all your collegiate needs? Pell no!" http://bit.ly/IevKuw
SANTORUM STILL NOT ENDORSING. Despite Piers Morgan's frustrated proddings, ABC's Shushannah Walshe reports that Santorum held out in a Tuesday-night CNN interview: "'He's the person that is going to go up against Barack Obama it's pretty clear and we need to win this race. We need to beat Barack Obama,' Santorum said about Romney. Morgan then said, 'You just endorsed Mitt Romney?' Santorum told Morgan, he 'can call it whatever you want.'" http://abcn.ws/Iou3Jk
MARK YOUR CALENDARS: SANTORUM, ROMNEY MEETING DATE SET: MAY 4. The presumptive Republican nominee and the candidate who gave him a run for his money will meet next Friday, sources familiar with the meeting tell ABC News. The meeting will give the former rivals a chance to talk through a number of policy issues. High on Santorum's agenda will be ensuring that Romney supports the repeal of President Obama's health care reform law and that he will not replace it with a mandate. (Romney mentions his intent to repeal "Obamacare" in almost every stump speech). More generally, according to a Santorum aide, "we want to make sure that conservatives, Tea Partiers and middle America has a strong voice in the Romney campaign." Discussion of an endorsement will be one item on the agenda, and there are no indications that Santorum won't eventually get behind the former Massachusetts governor, but a source said, "I would be shocked" if Santorum were to immediately announce his support of Romney after the two get together.
GINGRICH TO 'LOOK REALISTICALLY' AT CAMPAIGN'S FUTURE. After Newt Gingrich's 29-point loss in Delaware, ABC's Elicia Dover reports that Gingrich told a small gathering in Concord, "Over the next few days, we're going to look realistically at where we are at … we want you to know that as citizens, we are going to be right there standing shoulder by shoulder with you and that as we think through about how we can best be effective citizens over the next week or two - we are going to rely on you for help and you for advice." http://abcn.ws/IoCTqo
RUBIO TO MAKE FOREIGN-POLICY SPEECH TODAY… Sen. Marco Rubio will speak at Brookings (webcast live at noon Eastern), examining "whether U.S. global leadership is sustainable and even necessary in the 21st century. The Senator will explore what Americans need to do at this juncture, abroad and at home, to adapt and prepare for the changing international environment in the years ahead." http://bit.ly/I2LG45
…AND IS THE TARGET OF SECURITY THREAT. Offering few details, Sen. Rubio's office tells the Miami Herald that Rubio "is the target of a threat deemed credible enough to merit police protection in Washington, D.C., and at his home in West Miami … The U.S. Capitol Police and the West Miami Police Department are providing security and investigating. Neither agency could be reached for an official comment. A police cruiser was parked in front of Rubio's West Miami home Tuesday night. The senator was not home; he is scheduled to deliver a foreign policy speech Wednesday at the Brookings Institution in Washington." http://bit.ly/IssQ4b
COVER OF THE ROLLING STONE. Obama tells publisher Jann Wenner, in a cover interview that hits newsstands Friday, that Romney can't back away from conservative stances he's taken in the GOP primary. "I don't think that their nominee is going to be able to suddenly say, 'Everything I've said for the last six months, I didn't mean,'" Obama tells Wenner, according to the AP's preview. "I'm assuming that he meant it. When you're running for president, people are paying attention to what you're saying." And on channeling AL Green: "I can sing … I wasn't worried about being able to hit those notes." http://abcn.ws/InEXLG
GQ ON ROMNEY'S 'DARK KNIGHT.' Jason Zengerle profiles Romney's communications man and senior strategist Eric Fehrnstrom in the latest issue, "Over the course of his decade with Romney, [former aide Kevin] Madden says, Fehrnstrom has become 'a Tom Hagen figure. He's consigliere to the governor.' … The best political operatives are the ones who provide their clients with a tangible quality the candidate himself lacks. If Karl Rove was Bush's brain, then Fehrnstrom is Romney's balls." http://gqm.ag/JpoUig
@tymatsdorf: According to Q, 70% of CT voters support raising min wage. Paging @Linda_McMahon cc: @thetrough @erin_isaac
@MarkLeibovich : Everyone's arguing whether Edwards is a swindler or merely a swine…..Brutality of Servility http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/25/opinion/dowd-brutality-of-servility.html
-President Barack Obama is in Iowa City, Iowa delivering remarks at the University of Iowa about student interest rates.
-Mitt Romney has no public events scheduled.
-Newt Gingrich is in North Carolina holding five events in Cramerton, Denver, Kings Mountain, Mooresboro and Boiling Springs. Callista Gingrich is on the trail in Charlotte, N.C. visiting Billingsville Elementary School. Callista will also address the Mecklenburg County Republican Women's Reception at GOP Headquarters in Charlotte.
-Ron Paul is In El Paso, TX holding a town hall at the University of Texas at El Paso.
ABC's Josh Haskell ( @HaskellBuzz)
Check out The Note's Futures Calendar: http://abcn.ws/ZI9gV