SAN FRANCISCO — Mitt Romney swept primaries in California and four other states Tuesday as voters cast ballots from coast to coast in one of the biggest — and least consequential — days of the presidential campaign season.
With their respective nominations locked up, election day was just another working day for President Obama and the Republican he is set to face in November.
Obama spent Tuesday behind closed doors at the White House. Romney campaigned for Latino support in Texas, a state he is virtually certain to carry in November.
Most of the political world was transfixed by the gubernatorial recall election in Wisconsin, won by incumbent Republican Scott Walker; all the drama drained from the presidential contest when Romney’s chief rival quit the race in April and the former Massachusetts governor effectively claimed the GOP nomination. He clinched it last week by winning the Texas primary and will officially become the Republican standard-bearer at the party’s nominating convention in Tampa, Fla., in late August.
Nearly 300 delegates were at stake in Tuesday’s balloting in five states, which also included Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico and South Dakota. Romney added a substantial heap to a delegate count that stood at 1,398 delegates, according to the Associated Press. It takes 1,144 delegates to win the nomination.
California, with 172 delegates, offered the single biggest batch of the campaign season. But with both major party nominations decided, there was little excitement surrounding the contest and turnout was sparse.
At Precinct No. 3341 in San Francisco’s posh Nob Hill neighborhood, only 20 people had bothered to cast ballots in the first three hours after polls opened, out of about 800 or so registered voters. In addition, a sprinkling had dropped off vote-by-mail ballots.
Those who did show up in the chilly garage of a three-story flat were habitual voters and hard-core believers in the democratic system.
“Why did I vote? What a question,” spluttered Sol Silver, an 84-year-old retired architect who turns up his nose on voting by absentee ballot. “I like to vote in the booth,” he said. “I believe in voting. I’m a citizen.”
In Texas, Romney appeared at a Latino-owned office supply company in Fort Worth, where he criticized Obama’s economic policies.
“This Obama economy has been hard particularly on Hispanic businesses and Hispanic Americans,” Romney told about 200 supporters, noting that unemployment among Latinos rose last month to 11% and that 1 in 3 Americans living in poverty is Latino.
The Obama campaign countered by citing Romney’s job creation record as governor, when Massachusetts ranked 47th in the nation. “Now he wants to bring back the same policies that crashed the economy and devastated the middle class in the first place,” said campaign spokeswoman Lis Smith.
Texas will almost certainly back Romney in November, given its staunch Republican bearings. But in a sign of the difficulties Romney faces with Latino voters, a protester at the event unfurled a large white banner objecting to his enforcement-centered stance on immigration. She was led out by a police officer.
Mehta reported from Fort Worth. Times staff writer Maria L. La Ganga contributed to this report from San Francisco.