Obama calls Romney; congratulates him on GOP nod

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama called Mitt Romney to congratulate him on winning the Republican nomination on Wednesday, just as the Democrat’s campaign opened a new critique of Romney by focusing attention on his economic record as governor of Massachusetts.

The president told Romney “he looked forward to an important and healthy debate about America’s future,” Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt said. Romney’s campaign said the call was “brief and cordial.” Both men wished each other’s families well during the upcoming race.

Romney’s primary win in Texas on Tuesday pushed him past the 1,144-delegate threshold he needed to claim the nomination.

Obama took the formal step of congratulating his opponent even as his team looked to shift to the Massachusetts story under Romney. Romney’s campaign, meanwhile, was bringing attention to failed stimulus projects under Obama and federal money given to green energy companies like Solyndra, a solar firm that received hundreds of millions of dollars from the government only to go bankrupt.

The competing attack-lines came as Romney pivoted from a long primary slog to the Republican nomination and a new summertime window to sway voters who have not yet fully tuned into the presidential campaign. Romney hopes to present himself as a worthy replacement for Obama who can help revitalize a slow-moving economy, the most important issue for voters.

The country is “just beginning a general election, we’ve gone through a primary ... not a lot of people focus time on the characteristics of a new candidate like myself, and people will get to know me better. My guess is they’re going to get to know more about me than they’d like to by the time we’re finished,” Romney said in an interview on Fox News that aired Wednesday but was taped over the weekend.

For months, Obama and his allies have signaled plans to target Romney’s Massachusetts record, with advisers noting the state’s economy lagged in job creation and saw an increase in debt while he was governor from 2003-07. The critique will build upon a line of attack this month of Romney’s record at private equity firm Bain Capital, which Obama’s team contends led to job losses and bankrupt companies even while Bain profited.

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