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Romney commends fellow candidates, begins party healing

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney places his hand on his chest while speaking at the RNC State Chairman's National Meeting in Scottsdale, Ariz., Friday, April 20, 2012. AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

(CBS News) SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. - Seeking to begin the healing after the GOP's hard-fought presidential primary, likely nominee Mitt Romney commended the eight other candidates who he said "had the courage to run for president on our side of the aisle this year." He thanked each of them by name and offered praise to the group.

"Each of them campaigned in an aggressive and dynamic way to spread our message of conservatism," Romney told members of the Republican National Committee at their annual meeting. "And each is going to play a vital role in making sure that we win in November."

While he noted that two candidates are still running - namely former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Rep. Ron Paul of Texas - Romney was signaling the unofficial end of the primary and tacitly acknowledging what most Republicans already believe: Neither Gingrich nor Paul has a realistic chance of beating him for the nomination.

Romney was introduced in fiery remarks by Arizona's senior senator, John McCain, himself an early Romney supporter. Romney laid out the case against President Obama, focusing on a comment by top Obama political strategist David Axelrod during an appearance on Fox News.

"He said something to the effect of 'We gotta get off the economic road we're on and take a new direction.' I could not agree more," Romney said to loud applause. "We have to make sure that we get off this road where more and more people are stuck in poverty, where it's tougher and tougher to be in the middle class, where gasoline prices go higher and higher, where the unions are driving what's happening in our schools."

Also on Friday, Romney gave an interview to Fox News' Carl Cameron, who asked whether he would support Florida Sen. Marco Rubio's new version of the DREAM Act, which would allow children brought into the country illegally, who've completed high school or military service and otherwise stayed out of trouble, to remain in the United States while trying to become citizens.

Romney declined to say one way or the other. "Well, I'll have to look at his specific proposals but I do support his idea of moving forward on immigration legislation," he said. "Look, the president has every four years, like his fellow Democrats, they trot out immigration as an issue they think they can get political support from, but then when they had the House, the Senate and the White House, they did nothing. ... And so Marco Rubio is saying, 'Let's deal with this in substantive way. I hope he's successful in getting that done.'"

Romney previously has said he would veto the DREAM Act. Rubio is scheduled to campaign with Romney in advance of Tuesday's primary in Pennsylvania, where Romney is likely to win but where the Florida senator has the ability to energize Hispanics and tea party supporters for the fall campaign ahead.

In another media interview Friday, Romney weighed in on the ongoing scandals in the Secret Service, where agents were said to have hired prostitutes on an overseas White House trip, and the General Services Administration, where top officials have been accused of holding lavish gatherings for employees at luxury resorts.

"I think the GSA and the Secret Service are different kettles of fish," he said on Hugh Hewitt's conservative talk radio show. "Time will tell. The impression looking at the Secret Service, is that these were individuals who were not behaving as they should have, but it was not a matter of the senior leadership of the organization.

"In the case of the GSA, you have a presidential appointment and you have people at the top of the organization that are flaunting the respect of taxpayers and basically laughing their way to Las Vegas. It's very disturbing, and I think as a result the president is going to have to take a very close look at some of his other appointments and see if there shouldn't be people who are moved elsewhere."