Together we will win on 6 November, Mitt Romney told the Republican party after his clean sweep in Tuesday's primaries. But how will he shape up against Barack Obama?
You could call it his home state, but then Mitt Romney is a man with many homes. No matter. New Hampshire, the Granite State, was the scene of the speech which campaign staff had been billing as the "semi-official" start of the general election campaign. In the heady surroundings of the Radissson Hotel in downtown Manchester, Mitt launched into his victory spiel: "A Better America Begins Tonight".
And after all, there was plenty of cause to celebrate. Out of the five states which held their primaries on Tuesday - Pennsylvania, New York, Rhode Island, Connecticut and Delaware - Romney cleaned up in all five. Only tiny Delaware provided a brief intake of breath over the slim possibility that Newt Gingrich might win, but since even Gingrich himself was hinting he would "reassess his candidacy" before the place had even voted, this cannot have set off much of a flurry.
So finally, there is a candidate the Republicans can unite around: as Romney gave what was, in effect, his acceptance speech. "After 43primaries 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 honour and responsibility." With no distractions from rivals within his own party, it was also a chance to strike directly at President Obama's record.
"Over the last three-and-a-half years, we have seen hopes and dreams diminished by false promises and weak leadership. Everywhere I go, Americans are tired of being tired." Whether he was fired up by his raft of victories, or by sheer relief that the exhausting slog of the primaries is over at last, this was one of Romney's best performances to date. "It is about the economy, and we're not stupid," he declared.
Of course the cynics are already scoffing at this "new direction" for the presidential hopeful: the Buzzfeed website calculating that this is, in fact, the 97th time that Romney's campaign has pivoted towards the bigger contest in the fall. Say it enough times, perhaps, and it will come true. But in any case, there is a substantial mountain to climb for the candidate who has struggled to drum up enthusiasm from even the most committed Republican supporters.
Although, the presumptive Republican nominee is, well, still the presumptve Republican nominee, he can now start looking beyond party activists, to a much wider audience: the voting public as a whole. And that means a shift away some of the more extreme positions he has adopted in recent months, while concentrating on his own plans to rebuild the American economy.
Everywhere I go, Americans are tired of being tired. Mitt Romney
The latest Gallup tracking poll does not offer the best of news: Romney is lagging some seven points behind Obama, whose own approval ratings are now hovering on the right side of the 50 per cent threshold. While Obama is using this week to sweep through some major colleges, promoting his scheme to freeze interest rates on student loan repayments, noting that he and Michelle only managed to pay back their loans eight years ago.
With Obama still enjoying an overwhelming lead among young people, despite a certain drop-off in enthusiasm since the last election, Romney performed one of his trademark "Etch-A-Sketch" manouvres, neatly reversing his previous line, the one where he flatly ruled out any government cash to help with tuition costs, in favour of the freezing-rates plan.
And in another twist-about, Romney is heavily courting another group where he is trailing dismally behind his Democratic rival, Latino voters. A Fox News Latino poll last month gave him just 14 per cent support, with 70 per cent supporting Obama. NBC reported that a meeting with high-level donors, Romney was overheard telling them those kind of numbers spelled "doom for us".
In February Romney was pitching at a different audience, to the right of his party: and he was falling over himself to single out Arizona's hard-line immigration policy as a "model" for the rest of the country. Now, though, he has been hitting the campaign trail with a man who just could be his vice-presidential running mate, Florida senator Marco Rubio.
The 40-year-old first time senator is no liberal, but he has come up with his own version of the Dream Act, which was intended to allow the children of illegal immigrants to claim citizenship, once they graduated from high school and lived in the US for five years. The bill was nixed by the Republicans, and strongly opposed by Romney: the Rubio plan would not give a guaranteed path to citizenship but would give some young people legal status if they entered the military or higher education.
Romney is now "considering" lending his support to the Rubio version, declaring that "it has many features to commend it", although he will not be drawn about his thinking on a potential running mate. That blast from the past, Dick Cheney, has even thrown his opinion into the mix, cautioning against picking anyone simply for their ability to attract a particular voting bloc: the only criteria, he warned, should be experience.
A new kind of Romney
Whatever the political nuances, however, there were certainly signs of a different kind of Mitt Romney last night. For the time being, at least, there was none of the deeply personal acrimony that cast a somewhat bitter pall over so much of the primary campaign. There is apparently a new, more prominent role too for Ann Romney, who has been managing to project a warm and sympathetic appeal, lending some much needed humanity to her husband.
A likeable wife, a father who grew up poor and made it big: Mitt Romney is doing his best to overcome his image as an out-of-touch rich guy who has no idea of the struggles which ordinary people have to face. That is the image the Democrats are still trying to press home, with Obama telling crowds in two battleground states about his own humble background, and his determination to protect the least fortunate.
It might be all about the economy, with both sides trying to project a message of fairness, of experience and empathy. November is a long way off, though: there is plenty of time yet, for stupid.
Felicity Spector writes about US politics for Channel 4 News