Mitt Romney, who just two months ago was battling a series of conservative Republican challengers, on Tuesday grabbed enough votes in Texas to become the first Mormon positioned to win a national party presidential nomination.
Romney swept the Texas primary Tuesday night to secure the last of the 1,144 convention delegates needed to guarantee him the nomination.
The former Massachusetts governor stood alone after months of battling conservative challengers and his own occasional campaign-trail gaffes, which repeatedly knocked him from the front of the pack. In his second run for the White House, Romney relied on a well-financed, well-organized campaign machine, including a super-PAC with deep pockets, to repeatedly rebound until finally seizing the nomination so many sought to deny him.
Romney said he was "humbled" to have reached the delegate threshold.
"I have no illusions about the difficulties of the task before us," Romney said in a statement. "But whatever challenges lie ahead, we will settle for nothing less than getting America back on the path to full employment and prosperity. On November 6, I am confident that we will unite as a country and begin the hard work of fulfilling the American promise and restoring our country to greatness."
Though lacking in suspense, Tuesday's victory was long awaited by Romney's supporters, who nervously watched him fend off challengers from the conservative wing of his party -- from Texas Gov. Rick Perry, businessman Herman Cain, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and, most recently, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum. Each enjoyed a meteoric but short-lived rise in the polls before finally bowing out, the last of them, Gingrich, just last month.
"I think that 'never say die' attitude is one that permeated the entire campaign," Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom told The Washington Examiner.
Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, remains in the race but stopped actively campaigning in primary states.
The GOP will formally anoint Romney as its nominee in August at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla. He will face President Obama in the fall.
Romney prevailed, Fehrnstrom said, because of his focus on the issue that most concerns voters, the economy. Republican strategists agreed, pointing to Santorum's politically damaging foray into birth control and gay marriage that may have cost him critical votes in some key primaries.
"Romney earned this nomination through hard work and by staying true to a salient message" of fixing the economy and shrinking the nation's debt, said Mark Graul, a GOP strategist from Wisconsin.
Pollster Ron Faucheux said Romney's strength as a candidate in the GOP primary was underestimated by many.
"I think that Romney's fundamental strategy has been excellent," Faucheux told The Examiner. "Romney was the default candidate, meaning if no other candidate caught fire, he was the default candidate."
Some of Romney's opponents fizzled quickly. Others posed more serious threats, like Gingrich, who won the primary in South Carolina, a bellwether state that usually picks the eventually GOP nominee. Still, Romney rebounded, beat Gingrich in Florida, another crucial swing state, and regained his momentum, just as he did time after time over the last six months.
Santorum also proved a more durable opponent, winning the Iowa caucuses and other contests in states with strong evangelical leanings, and underscoring Romney's weakness among social conservatives, particularly in the South. Outspent and outorganized, though, Santorum, too, ultimately fell to Romney in industrial swing states like Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin.
"One thing Romney proved this time that he didn't prove four years ago is that when the going got tough, he got going," Faucheux said. "That is the mark of a good campaign."