Mitt Romney is feeling confident — not to say cocky. At the very same time that he downplayed his chances to win the Keystone State primary April 24, he expressed an expectant hope that he’ll win Pennsylvania in the general election:

“As you know I want to win Pennsylvania in November,” Romney said at a small rally held on the roof of a downtown Harrisburg office building. “I’m going to win Pennsylvania in November.” …

Pennsylvania hasn’t voted Republican in a presidential election since 1988, but he expressed confidence that he could pick up the state’s 20 electoral votes this fall.

“The people of Pennsylvania, on Nov. 6, I believe will vote for me and give me the support I need to become the next president of the United States,” he said. …

As for the more pressing matter – the April 24 Republican primary showdown against Rick Santorum – Romney was careful not to overstate his chances.

“Newt Gingrich won his state, I won my state, I think people expect the senator to win his home state,” he said. “But I’ll pick up a lot of delegates, and we have several other states with contests the same day – I hope to win all of those, and if I can win the others and pick up some delegates here, it will give me an even stronger lead.”

These juxtaposed remarks might be some of Mitt Romney’s most brilliant. At this point, he has every reason to expect that he’ll be the nominee. The math heavily favors him and prominent conservative figures in the Republican Party have, by their endorsements, anointed him “conservative enough.” Few folks are talking about a Rick Santorum comeback and even fewer are talking about a White Knight. As jarring as it might be to hear Romney jump over the last few months of the primary process to the general, then, he’s justified.

Furthermore, by focusing his predictions of victory on the general, he adds not only to his growing aura of inevitability, but to his growing aura of electability. He diminishes the importance of a Santorum victory. “So Santorum wins Pennsylvania?” Romney seems to be saying. “Everybody wins at home, but don’t think we need a Pennsylvanian to carry the swing state in the general election. Obama’s not from there — and he’s only further alienated ‘bitter clingers’ in Pennsylvania country.”

If Romney wins Pennsylvania in April — as at least one poll shows him poised to do — then so much the better for him.