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Romney campaign set to expand for fall election

BOSTON — Mitt Romney’s nondescript base camp on the outskirts of the North End of Boston has until now seemed too large for his presidential campaign — roughly 15,000 square feet of space on the first floor has sat largely empty and unused, even during Romney’s first presidential bid in 2008.

But that cavernous area, which once housed a Roche-Bobois furniture store, will soon fill with the speed of a hot high-tech startup as Romney, now the presumptive Republican nominee, prepares for the general election. His staff of 87 full-time employees will balloon to more than 400 people in the coming weeks, aides said, and his convention team of 55 will nearly triple to 150 full-timers by the actual event in Tampa, Fla., in late August.

In short order, the campaign will need to raise money aggressively, build up offices in swing states, reach out to conservatives and moderates and hone its anti-Obama message while introducing Romney to large swaths of the country.

Romney has sold himself to voters as a problem-solver and an experienced executive, and some of those skills will be put to the test in a matter of weeks as he transforms his insular, tight-knit political team into a full-scale national campaign prepared to compete with President Barack Obama’s vaunted political operation. Romney’s headquarters, for instance, looks spendthrift compared with Obama’s campaign office, at the prestigious address of One Prudential Plaza in downtown Chicago.

—Ashley Parker, The New York Times

Ford plans an extensive factory expansion in China

BEIJING — Ford Motor has chosen China for its largest factory expansion program in a half-century, announcing Thursday that it would build a $760 million assembly plant in Hangzhou, two weeks after announcing a $600 million plan to expand in Chongqing and less than six weeks after completing an assembly plant in Chongqing.

Ford is late to China’s party, and its new factories will open in a slowing, increasingly competitive Chinese market. Rapid factory construction in China is a throwback to the company’s last big factory building campaign in the 1950s, when models like the Thunderbird captured the hearts and wallets of young Americans and when Ford was racing to increase capacity in postwar Europe, Australia and South Africa.

Auto sales in China rose just 2.5 percent last year to 18.5 million after a decade of double-digit annual growth. Sales were down 1.3 percent in the first quarter of this year from a year earlier, the first quarter to show a decline in seven years, according to official figures.

—Keith Bradsher, The New York Times

Microsoft beats estimates as Windows makes a stand

SEATTLE — Microsoft is facing some of its biggest challenges with the rise of smartphones and the iPad, but one of its stalwarts of the personal computer era showed there is still life left in its main business.

Microsoft said Thursday that sales of its flagship software product for PCs, the Windows operating system, rose 4 percent in the quarter. Analysts were expecting a drop in the business because of broader industry data showing weakness in the personal computer business. Gartner, a technology research firm, recently estimated that worldwide PC shipments had grown only 1.9 percent in the quarter.

There is speculation within the technology industry that the supremacy of the PC is over and that Microsoft’s influence is waning along with it. Executives at Apple have boasted that the explosive growth in sales of the iPad and the iPhone are evidence of the arrival of a post-PC era.

—Nick Wingfield, The New York Times