Mitt Romney isn’t waiting to lock down the GOP presidential nomination to begin focusing his campaign chiefly on President Barack Obama.

The trend is born of strategy and necessity. The more Romney portrays himself as a formidable challenger to Obama, the more he may be able to persuade lukewarm Republican voters he’s the most “electable” candidate.

“I’m the one guy in this race who can beat Barack Obama,” he told 400 sun-drenched people Tuesday in Liberty, Mo. Meanwhile, the clock is ticking towards November, and Romney is loath to wait any longer to start denting Obama’s armor.

But his inability to pull cleanly away from former Sen. Rick Santorum is forcing Romney to spend precious time and money in states he’d prefer to ignore. He made several campaign stops in Alabama and Mississippi, which are solidly in the GOP column in November.

He will spend much of the weekend in Puerto Rico, another place that doesn’t factor into general election strategies. And the chief pro-Romney super PAC is buying ads in Louisiana, which fits the same category.

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