TAMPA, Florida -- A triumphant Mitt Romney rallied his supporters Tuesday night in Florida, pivoting back to attacking President Obama as he looks ahead to the general election in November.
In a victory speech that did not mention rival Newt Gingrich by name, Romney sought to unite a fractured Republican party that has seen a bruising fight between the two men over the past days in the Sunshine state.
"A competitive primary does not divide us, it prepares us, and we will win," he declared, adding "primary contests are not easy. They are not supposed to be."
Throughout the campaign, Romney has often acted like the presumptive nominee, but changed course after. Romney has been hitting Gingrich hard since the former Georgia lawmaker's January 21 come-from-behind victory.
Gingrich, in his remarks to supporters, noted that there are still 46 states to vote and he promised to unite the conservative wing of the party around his candidacy. He pledged to continue until the nominating convention this summer.
Romney returned to his look-ahead approach in his remarks to a packed house at the Tampa Convention Center, where he mentioned Mr. Obama two dozen times.
The former Massachusetts governor touted his experience running successful business as he took aim at the man he hopes to replace.
"Well Mr. President, you were elected to lead. You chose to follow, and now it is time for you to get out of the way," Romney said, noting that he was quoting Thomas Paine, a political writer who was one of the founding fathers of the U.S.
Paine is often quoted by liberals and not someone frequently cited by Republican politicians.
"My leadership will end the Obama era and begin a new era of American prosperity," Romney said.
In his victory speech, Romney offered congratulations for Gingrich, Texas Rep. Ron Paul and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum but mentioned none by name.
"Three gentlemen are serious and able competitors and they're still in the race and I want to congratulate them on another hard fought contest in this campaign," Romney said.
In a sign of how bitter the race between the top two candidates has become, Gingrich did not offer congratulations to any of his opponents. Texas Rep. Ron Paul and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum offered standard congratulations to their rivals.
Romney and Gingrich spent close to $20 million combined on television and radio ads in Florida in recent days, though Romney reportedly outspent Gingrich by as much as 4 to 1.
The next state to vote is Nevada, where voters will hold caucuses on Saturday.