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Romney, McCain try to unite party at RNC meeting

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Mitt Romney looked to lock in support from the Republican establishment Friday with a televised speech and a private meeting here at the Republican National Committee's annual meeting of state party chairmen.

Romney, introduced by the party's 2008 standard bearer Sen. John McCain and by the RNC chairman Reince Priebus, took the microphone to a minute-long standing ovation and appeared to try to close the door on the primary season by thanking his GOP rivals for their contributions to the race -- even those still running against him.

"Each of them campaigned in an aggressive and dynamic way to spread our message of conservatism, and each is going to play a vital role in making sure that we win in November," Romney said, before listing off the names of candidates long-departed (Bachmann, Pawlenty) to those still active in the presidential contest (Gingrich, Paul)

"We have all fought hard and well," Romney said.

The speeches by Romney, McCain and Priebus all shared two similar themes: the Republican Party is uniting around Romney; and by forcing President Barack Obama to run on his record, the incumbent president can be defeated.

"I am so gratified to see our party coming together," McCain said at the top of his remarks.

"My friends, this president, Barack Obama can run but he can't hide from his record," McCain said.

Priebus, the RNC chairman, also accused the president of "running on a parade of shiny objects," adding later "excuses won't pay the mortgage."

For his part, Romney joked about having not won the nomination yet, but sounded his now-regular general election themes in a speech that focused almost exclusively on Obama.

Before the meeting, Romney held a private reception and photo line with state party chairmen, asking them to pledge their support at the convention, where some RNC officials act as "super-delegates," casting ballots for candidates of their own choosing.

Romney's second event in Arizona is expected to focus on Hispanic voters, a growing Arizona voting bloc, leading to increasing confidence among Democrats that the state could be competitive this fall. McCain, the state's senior senator, predicted no such outcome.

"The state of Arizona -- don't worry -- will be for Mitt Romney this November," he said.