Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney told Politico that he thinks the nomination battle with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich will extend many months longer than originally thought, giving more relevance to California Republicans going to the polls in June.
MANCHESTER, N.H. -- Mitt Romney, who just a month ago had hoped to seal the GOP presidential nomination with Florida's primary on Jan. 31, tells POLITICO that he now foresees an epic fight with Newt Gingrich that could last through the California primary on June 5.
Asked if the former House speaker is the front-runner, Romney replied bluntly: "He is right now."
Romney made it clear that he would rather lose than make incendiary charges about Gingrich that could help President Barack Obama in the general election. And the former Massachusetts governor said the nomination "is not going to be decided in just a couple of contests" and "could go for months and months."
"You see how dramatically the numbers have moved and how quickly they have over the last year?" he replied Monday during a video interview at a grubby French-Canadian diner, Chez Vachon, a storied campaign stop that has hosted George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.
"It's a very fluid electorate. I think I'll get the nomination. I can't predict when. ... I've got -- what? -- five or six more months to go to make that a reality."
California campaign activity for presidential hopefuls on both sides of the aisle has been largely limited to fundraising events so far, as GOP hopefuls spend time and resources in the early primary and caucus states. Just two major candidates -- Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann and Texas Rep. Ron Paul -- accepted invitations to speak at the state GOP convention this fall.
Romney remained the favorite candidate for California Republicans by a slim margin in a recent statewide poll. Field Poll results released last week showed the former Massachusetts governor out polling Gingrich 26 percent to 23 percent.
Click here to read the full Politico piece.
PHOTO CREDIT: Republican presidential candidates former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, left, and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, right, during the Republican debate, Saturday, Dec. 10, 2011, in Des Moines, Iowa. Attacked as a lifelong Washington insider, Gingrich parried criticism from Mitt Romney Saturday night, telling the former Massachusetts governor, "The only reason you didn't become a career politician is because you lost to Teddy Kennedy in 1994." (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)