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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama on Thursday called out his likely opponent for the White House by name for the second time this week and said he "cannot wait" for the chance to pit his vision for America against the Republicans in this year's election.
In remarks that underscore the president's shift into full general election-fighting mode, Obama acknowledged Mitt Romney was the front-runner to win the Republican nomination to face him on November 6, and said he relished the upcoming contest.
"We are going to have a big and important debate in this country, and I cannot wait," the Democrat told supporters at a fundraising event in Washington. "This is going to be a big debate and it's going to be a fun debate. It's always good to have the truth on your side," he said.
The president had barely mentioned the former Massachusetts governor by name for months but has done so twice this week. Romney moved closer to clinching the Republican presidential nomination on Tuesday when he won three primary contests.
Obama fiercely attacked Republican budget plans earlier this week. On Thursday he again warned supporters the plan would gut many popular social programs, adding that it was "a budget that Governor Romney, who is the front-runner on the Republican side, has embraced ... the budget was marvelous, he said."
Reporting By Alister Bull; Editing by Paul Simao