Romney courts gun owners and pivots to general election
St. Louis, Missouri (CNN) — In his first major speech to conservatives since his Republican rival Rick Santorum quit the presidential race, Mitt Romney turned his sights on the general election and accused President Barack Obama of waging “an assault on our freedoms.”
Romney addressed the Annual Meeting of the National Rifle Association, which drew more than 60,000 gun enthusiasts to St. Louis to inspect the latest in personal weaponry and feast on tough political attacks against the White House.
“This November, we face a defining decision,” Romney told a large crowd on the floor inside Edward Jones Dome, the home of the St. Louis Rams.
“I am offering a real choice and a new beginning,” he said. “I am running for president because I have the experience and the vision to lead us in a different direction. We know what Barack Obama’s vision of America is. We’ve lived it this last 3½ years. Mine is very different.”
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Romney advisers billed the NRA address as the first in a series of speeches from the likely Republican nominee designed to shift the discussion away from a divisive primary fight and steer the political discussion toward the general election battle against Obama.
While Second Amendment rights were on the agenda — Romney praised NRA officials and promised to stand up for the rights of gun owners — the likely Republican nominee entered the arena with larger ambitions.
One senior Romney aide called Friday’s speech “the beginning of crystallizing for voters the choice that they are going to have in the fall” between Romney and “a
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