Manchester, New Hampshire (CNN) – As Mitt Romney moved to seize the mantle of presumptive Republican nominee in a New Hampshire speech Tuesday night - and won the evening's five primaries - his campaign was aggressively working behind the scenes to build up a general election operation, a campaign adviser said.
The campaign cast Romney's Manchester speech – in the state that handed him his first primary victory this cycle and where he maintains a summer home – as a pivot to the general election campaign.
In his address, Romney noted the connection to his campaign's beginnings.
"We launched this campaign not far from here on a beautiful June day. It has been long and extraordinarily rewarding," he said.
The candidate noted the battle for the GOP nomination has encompassed "43 primaries and caucuses, many long days and not a few long nights."
In his speech, Romney maintained his argument that the presidency of Barack Obama has been an economic failure.
Romney also addressed the issue of wealth and financial success - a thorny issue around which he has stumbled in the campaign trail.
"I see an America with a growing middle class, with rising standards of living," Romney said. "I see children even more successful than their parents – some successful even beyond their wildest dreams – and others congratulating them for their achievement, not attacking them for it."
Ahead of the speech, a Romney campaign adviser painted the event as a general election kick-off.
"I think tonight marks a dividing line, because now the public is going to be paying more, or closer, attention to the contest now that it's down to two people," the adviser said. "And the choice could not be clearer."
In a statement following Romney's projected wins, Obama's campaign press secretary Ben LaBolt seemed to agree that the contest had reached a new stage.
"Mitt Romney has spent the past year out on the campaign trail tearing down the President with a negative message that even Republicans who have endorsed him have criticized," LaBolt said. "This marks the end of that monologue. Now he must put his record and his agenda next to the President's."
Continuing the strategy he has used in a series of recent speeches, Romney laid out the differences between himself and the president regarding the country's economic future, and presented himself as the experienced hand needed to turn the country around.
"Incumbent presidents don't get to run on vision," the adviser said. "They have to run on their record, and we're going to hold him accountable starting with tonight's speech."
The adviser acknowledged that some voters "may have limited information" about Romney and his record, and promised that "going forward they're going to learn more details about his record of success and his plan for jobs and the economy."
Meanwhile, the campaign is engaged in a "rapid build-out" of its organization and was concentrating on hiring more staff at its Boston headquarters and in some key states, the adviser said.
The adviser said part of the transition to general election mode would include expanding press access to Romney's fundraisers, and said pooled media access to those events would be established as early as next week.
In speeches over the past week, Romney has ignored his GOP rivals and focused the majority of his time on attacking Obama's record. He has offered a "prebuttal" to the president's convention speech – scheduled for September – and trailed the president to Ohio to argue Obama had not followed through on his 2008 campaign promises.
As the campaign moves forward, the adviser said Romney will continue making more "direct engagement" with President Obama, and cited "some of the exchanges we've had over the past seven to 10 days" with the president as proof the general election has begun.
The campaigns have tussled over the support of Latinos, youth, women and even dog lovers in recent days.