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Mitt Romney has been acting like he's the Republican presidential nominee for a long time. And after last night, he has even more reason to do so. Romney easily won all five primary contests yesterday - New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Delaware and Rhode Island. No major rivals are standing in his way. A source close to the campaign of Newt Gingrich tells NPR that Gingrich will formally suspend his campaign on Tuesday and will likely endorse Romney.
Last night in New Hampshire, Mitt Romney delivered a pumped-up speech that his staff says marks the start of the November election campaign.
ARI SHAPIRO, BYLINE: Why is this night different from all other nights? After all, it's pretty arbitrary to declare this the starting line of the general election. Technically, Romney has not won enough delegates to be his party's nominee. Yet, it's been weeks since he talked about any other Republicans on the stump. Romney and the president have already traded attacks back and forth like general election candidates. Romney supporter David Jaramillo is a filmmaker. And he believes the general election campaign has been underway for weeks.
DAVID JARAMILLO: I think a long time ago it already happened. We already knew it was Mitt.
SHAPIRO: Yet, he also thinks it can't hurt for Romney to reintroduce himself to Americans now, especially after all the attacks of the last few months.
JARAMILLO: They just paint him as this generic picture of the corporate type, and we know that's not him.
SHAPIRO: The Romney campaign agrees that the candidate could benefit from firing a general election starting gun. A dividing line, as one official put it. Time and place? Last night, at a hotel ballroom in downtown Manchester, New Hampshire.
MITT ROMNEY: Because after 43 primaries and caucuses, many long days, and more than a few long nights, I can say with confidence and gratitude that you have given me a great honor and solemn responsibility. And together we are going to win on November 6th.
(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
SHAPIRO: This state is a meaningful place for Romney. It's where he kicked off his presidential campaign ten months ago. He owns a house here. And he had his first major primary win here in January. Romney explained that although people in New Hampshire may know him well, many others don't.
ROMNEY: Many Americans are just now beginning to focus on the choice before the country. In the days ahead I'll look forward to spending time with many of you personally. I want to hear what's on your mind. Hear about your concerns. And I want to learn about your families.
SHAPIRO: He talked about his family and his business record. And he made it clear that he will keep a relentless focus on President Obama's economic record, at one point tweaking a line from Bill Clinton's presidential campaign.
ROMNEY: It's still about the economy and we're not stupid.
(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
SHAPIRO: There was a sense of deja vu to the whole event. The Romney bus parked outside, just as it was on primary night in January. Acupuncturist Elizabeth Ropp lives a few blocks away, and she feels a bit nostalgic for the political frenzy that swept through this town four months ago.
ELIZABETH ROPP: We had good times in January. It was fantastic. And I was busy chasing Newt Gingrich around and I didn't get a chance to see Romney. So, you know, I wanted to, like, relive some of that again.
SHAPIRO: Just after passing through the Secret Service metal detectors, she discreetly peeled the Romney sticker off her coat. She's with the Occupy movement.
ROPP: And my friends are all right across the street protesting. But I thought why not come on in? It's a little warmer.
SHAPIRO: Romney supporter Roy Schultz retired to Manchester because he's a political junkie and wanted to be at the center of the action. He's relieved to see the end of a primary process that he says was far too vicious.
ROY SCHULTZ: I was so turned off. Republicans are so good at being able to shoot themselves in one foot while putting the other foot in their mouth. I'm so glad to get through all of that nonsense and viciousness of that primary.
SHAPIRO: Now, he says with a smile, he wants the viciousness of Obama versus Romney.
Ari Shapiro, NPR News, Manchester, New Hampshire. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.