WASHINGTON — In a footnote to the long and often caustic Republican primary contest, Mitt Romney surpassed the number of delegates needed to clinch the presidential nomination Tuesday by winning the Texas primary.
The former Massachusetts governor played down the milestone. Eager to move beyond the primary phase of his candidacy and ease intraparty divisions, he is now focused on fundraising and sharpening attacks on President Barack Obama for what figures to be a close and expensive general-election battle.
In a one-paragraph statement issued after the polls closed in Texas, where he essentially ran unopposed, Romney said he was honored and humbled by his achievement.
"I have no illusions about the difficulties of the task before us," he said. "But whatever challenges lie ahead, we will settle for nothing less than getting America back on the path to full employment and prosperity. On November 6, I am confident that we will unite as a country and begin the hard work of fulfilling the American promise and restoring our country to greatness."
Romney has exceeded the number of delegates, 1,144, required to gain the nomination, according to an Associated Press count. Six primaries remain, including California's, the nation's largest, on June 5.
Romney's final rival, Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, is no longer actively campaigning, but he and his supporters continue to fight for delegate slots. Josh Putnam, a political scientist at Davidson College in North Carolina who closely tracks the nomination process, estimated that Paul will probably have 150 to 200 delegates bound to him at the nominating convention in Tampa, as well as control over at least four state delegations.
There has been speculation that Paul's backers will attempt to place his name in nomination, but Putnam said the Texas congressman, who will retire when his term expires, is unlikely to be a disruptive force at the national party gathering.
In recent weeks, Romney has intensified his fundraising activities, which continued Tuesday evening in Las Vegas at events with developer Donald Trump that were expected to raise as much as $2 million. Separately, Romney met with casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, who along with family members gave $21.5 million to a "super PAC" supporting rival GOP contender Newt Gingrich and is expected to open his wallet for Romney.
Romney's public schedule was designed to avoid highlighting his relationship with Trump, who continued to espouse the long-discredited view that the president is not a U.S. citizen. The Romney campaign rejected that view and conceded it was an unnecessary distraction.