Appearing ever-more confident in Wisconsin's primary, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney focused on President Obama during a campaign trip through this Midwestern battleground and predicted a victory that could effectively seal the nomination for him Tuesday.
"We're looking like we're going to win this thing on Tuesday," Romney told supporters, suggesting he could also claim wins in Maryland and the District of Columbia that day. "If I can get that boost also from Wisconsin, I think we'll be on a path that'll get me the nomination well before the convention."
Rival Rick Santorum sought to stoke doubts about Romney's conservative credentials on the last weekend of campaigning before the critical showdown -- Santorum's last chance to prove his strength in the industrial heartland, where he has said he can challenge Obama but where Romney has beaten him consistently.
Romney nodded toward evangelical conservatives Saturday, acknowledging their doubts about him and foreshadowing the balancing act that he will face in the months to come.
"President Obama believes in a government-centered society. He believes government guiding our lives will do a better job in doing so than individuals," he told more than 1,000 conservatives at a Faith and Freedom Coalition meeting in the heart of GOP-heavy Waukesha County, home to the state's largest evangelical mega-churches.
Romney, tagged by opponents as rich and detached, appealed to the spectrum of households he will need in the fall, should he win the GOP nomination. He mentioned a single mother he met Friday in Appleton, Wis., a landscaper from St. Louis and a Cambodian immigrant from Texas, all while blaming Obama for "the most tepid, weakest recovery we've seen since Hoover."
He veered slightly from the strict general election message he has offered since winning big last month in the Illinois primary.
"We were endowed by our creator with our rights. Not the king, not the state, but our creator," he told the packed hotel ballroom who later heard Santorum.
He promised to restore the religious freedom he and other Republicans have accused Obama of undermining and "to protect the sanctity of life," an issue that has haunted him since his conversion to opposing abortion rights as governor of Massachusetts.
He received a healthy, if not thunderous, ovation.
Santorum did not do much better in appearing before the group. He described Romney's enactment of sweeping health care legislation while governor as disqualifying him from challenging Obama.
"Don't listen to the pundits. They're telling you to give up on your principles in order to win," Santorum said. "Stand up for what you know is right for America. Stand up and vote your conscience."
With about half of the GOP nominating contests complete, Romney has won 54 percent of the delegates at stake, putting him on track to reach the threshold 1,144 national convention delegates in June.
Santorum has won 27 percent. The former Pennsylvania senator, who has described Romney as too moderate on key issues to effectively confront Obama, would need to win 74 percent of the remaining delegates. GOP rival Newt Gingrich would need 85 percent.