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WASHINGTON - Presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney was campaigning in Pennsylvania ahead of the state's Tuesday primary with Marco Rubio in tow, the US senator widely discussed as a possible running mate.
Rubio is the latest among potential vice presidential picks to hit the campaign trail with Romney, but the first since the frontrunner's main rival Rick Santorum bowed out of the Republican race two weeks ago.
Romney has already pivoted toward President Barack Obama ahead of the November election, and he told a crowd in Greencastle that Americans needed to help him battle against the cancer that is big government.
"This president has a road that he's traveling down where government gets larger and larger and metastasizes into every aspect of American life," Romney said late Sunday.
Obama, he said, subscribes to "a view that somehow government knows better than free people. I disagree entirely."
Romney became the all-but-certain Republican flagbearer when Santorum, a former senator from Pennsylvania, called it quits earlier this month.
And while the frontrunner was focused on a Romney-Obama showdown, he was making a final sweep through the Keystone State as he seeks to secure the delegates needed to be declared the nominee.
Four other states also vote on Tuesday: Connecticut, Delaware, New York and Rhode Island.
Romney was to attend an event in South Park Township outside Pittsburgh early Monday with former Homeland Security secretary Tom Ridge.
Rubio then joins Romney at a town hall event in Aston at 12:55 p.m. (1655 GMT) for what could be seen as a test run for a possible Romney-Rubio ticket.
Rubio has denied he will be the vice presidential pick, saying he would prefer to influence US policy through his work in the Senate.
But as a Florida lawmaker and son of Cuban immigrants, Rubio would serve two vital purposes as Romney's running mate: blunting Obama's advantage among Hispanic voters, and helping win Rubio's home state -- a crucial election battleground.
Last week Rubio made a Freudian slip that may have hinted at his interest in the job.
"Three, four, five, six, seven years from now, if I do a good job as vice president -- I'm sorry, as senator -- I'll have the chance to do all sorts of things," Rubio said Thursday at a forum, to loud laughter.
Romney has secured a thicket of endorsements in recent weeks including the top Republicans in Congress.
New York ex-mayor and onetime presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani endorsed Romney on Monday, saying "Mitt won (the primary race) fair and square."
"I think he has an understanding of the economy that's far deeper than the president and far deeper than most people," Giuliani told Fox News.
He and Romney were arch rivals in the 2008 campaign, and in recent months Giuliani had made comments which appeared to favor Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker who is still, nominally at least, in the Republican race.
Giuliani chalked that up to his close friendship with Gingrich, and said he had a "good long talk" with Romney over breakfast last week.
Obama's campaign hit back at Romney over accusations that two ongoing scandals, including one involving Secret Service agents procuring prostitutes in Colombia, show that the president is not exhibiting sufficient leadership.
"People will judge him based on his record," Obama's senior campaign strategist David Axelrod told CNN Sunday.
"We've been involved in a lot of things that required very strong management, very strong leadership, very strong coordination and oversight, and I think people will judge him on the totality, not these stories," he said on NBC.