Mitt Romney
Alex Brandon  /  AP
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney addresses the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington on Feb. 11.
updated 4/12/2011 10:46:41 AM ET 2011-04-12T14:46:41

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney became the second major Republican to announce a challenge to President Barack Obama in 2012, declaring he would "put America back on a course of greatness."

Romney joins another former governor, Minnesota's Tim Pawlenty, in having established what is known as an exploratory committee, a move that allows the candidates to begin raising money and hiring staff for a run at the Republican nomination.

Romney issued his announcement in a Web video shot at the University of New Hampshire, showing his intention to focus on the tiny U.S. state that holds the first-in-the-nation presidential primary vote. His declaration focused mainly on the troubled American economy and said he had "become convinced that America has been put on a dangerous course by Washington politicians, and it has become even worse during the last two years."

Mitt's in. Romney announces 2012 exploratory committee
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While Romney had been widely expected to run, the timing of his announcement caught many off guard.

Polls show him entering the Republican primary fray as the front-runner in what is expected to be a crowded field of candidates. Other likely Obama challengers range from former House of Representatives Speaker Newt Gingrich to House Tea Party notable Rep. Michelle Bachmann, a Minnesotan like Pawlenty.

Story: Ex-aide: Religion biggest hurdle to Romney nomination

Romney sought the Republican nomination in the 2008 race that eventually saw Sen. John McCain face Obama. McCain's running mate, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, often is mentioned as a potential candidate this time, but she has been coy about her intentions.

About 12 Republicans' names regularly rise to the top among potential candidates to challenge Obama. The president officially announced last week that he would seek re-election.

Possible obstacles
Romney could face resistance among Republicans who are determined to revoke Obama's health care legislation. The Obama plan, which makes it harder for insurance companies to deny coverage to individuals and creates an insurance pool for tens of thousands of uninsured Americans, was based largely on a system put in place in Massachusetts when Romney was governor. Romney also may be burdened by his Mormon faith, a religious belief that many evangelical Christian Republicans view as a sect.

Romney sought instead to focus on his business resume.

"Across the nation, over 20 million Americans still can't find a job or have given up looking," Romney said.

"How has this happened in the nation that leads the world in innovation and productivity? The answer is that President Obama's policies have failed. He and virtually all the people around him have never worked in the real economy. They just don't know how jobs are created in the private sector."

Story: The 2012 GOP presidential field

Romney, a businessman who ran Salt Lake City's Winter Olympics in 2002, has lined up donors, staff and advisers for his presidential bid. He has quietly built a by-the-books campaign organization that is stacked with experienced presidential operatives.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: GOP 2012: Romney is in, Pawlenty staffs up

  1. Closed captioning of: GOP 2012: Romney is in, Pawlenty staffs up

    >>> well, call it brave. some might call it a political mistake, but mitt romney jumped into the presidential race in what was, turned out to be a preemptive strike on the anniversary that could dog his presidential campaign . it was five years ago today that he signed the massachusetts health care overhaul into law.

    >> romney now kicks off a six-week fund-raising effort today with an event at new york's harbor club. he can officially raise money after announcing his exploratory committee on twitter. and what else, an online video .

    >> i believe in america. i believe in the freedom and opportunity and the principles of our constitution that have led us to become the greatest nation in the history of the earth . this effort isn't about a person. it's about the cause of american freedom and greatness.

    >> jonathan martin is a senior political reporter for politico and chris cillizza is managing editor of postpolitics come, author of "the fix" blog.

    >> we need another title for jonathan .

    >> just make it up!

    >> all right. so, chris, let me ask you, there were those on twitter and in the political world , people such as yourselves, who were noticing this health care anniversary.

    >> yes.

    >> but until mitt romney announced his exploratory committee , it kind of gave a peg, so everyone could have a reason to focus on the health care anniversary he wants to forget about.

    >> you're totally right. we in the news business are always looking for news angles. you know, you're looking for a way into a story.

    >> the hook.

    >> the hook. this is a hook. i think what they're saying by this is, look, we're going to do it. he has to do it for a logistical reason, which is, he's got to get in and raise money . he's the front-runner. we all expect a big quarter. i'll leave it to jonathan to set what that number will be, but we expect a big second quarter from him. so he had to get in at some point. you know, if he gets in three days from now, we'll still be talking about health care . i think that was our calculation. we'll bring up health care no matter what, let's just do it when we want to do it.

    >> come june, you know, will have long erased any memory of what, you know, the day --

    >> and you hear all sorts of stories that they're trying to do a shock and awe type number. we know george w. bush in june of '99, he had the $30 million month. so if that is a bar, you know, you would assume in essentially three months, he could surpass that.

    >> keep in mind, romney , the french quarter of '07 when he first ran raised over $20 million. now, a small portion of that was some of his own cash. given that he signed up a lot of folks that last time were raising the money for giuliani and mccain, you would think that he would actually be able to do better than that.

    >> so the floor is somewhere about 25 to 30?

    >> i think so. i think so.

    >> but i want to go back to health care a minute, jonathan . what we did on first read today was say, look, it is going to be the defining issue. because either he navigates it and figures out how to pivot and it shows he's a pretty good politician, or it brings him down. is it that simple?

    >> my colleague, ben smith and i wrote a story last year how this was his version of hillary clinton 's iraq. and we sort of fleshed that out a little bit today in our story, about how his options on health care are basically the hillary, which is to try to find a middle ground , the john edwards , which is a full walk back and the apology, or the joe lieberman , the full embrace. now, the easiest thing to do is do the edwards or the lieberman, which is you either run from it or embrace it, but the harder thing to do is that middle ground .

    >> i don't want to sound like a romney defender, we focus so much on health care , he'll never win because of health care . remember how john mccain was never going to win because of impressive immigration reform . people have issues. is there a bigger issue than most? yes, because it's for a lot of conservatives. it's the defining --

    >> and hillary almost won --

    >> all right, okay. so another romney issue is the, kind of the excitement factor, the authenticity factor. so how do you see him trying to overcome what a lot of voters did not like in 2008 , where they felt like there was just something not genuine.

    >> i'll go quick and then i'll leave it to you. i think what he's doing differently this time is he's not trying to be all things to all people. that's -- tim pawlenty is mitt romney circa 2008 . that's what tim pawlenty is doing. he's conservative in some crowds, he's trying to be as authentic as possible. that people, a lot of said, it's boring, it's just about the economy, it's straight forward. he's the adult in the race. go ahead. sorry.

    >> no, he wants to focus on his strength, which is the economy. he's not going to chase every cultural conservative issue to try to outflank his opponent on the right. but i think it's bigger than that, savannah. i think his problem isn't just issues, it's about being able to relate to voters. i think that was a central problem for him last time around. what's he going to do? you're going to see more of him with his wife, which is a very down to earth figure, who i think sort of makes him feel more comfortable and at ease. look, i just think you're going no try to see him being himself. let mitt be mitt.

    >> but is that authentic? is the guy who doesn't wear a tie authentic?

    >> that's the challenge, you can overcompensate.

    >> is it 1994 romney , 2004 romney , 2006 romney ?

    >> and i think the answer is, at his core, he's he's a successful businessman. a guy who goes into problem situations in the private sector and fixes it.

    >> by the way, that's a contrast that they can strike with both their primary opponents and press.

    >> haley barbour . is this not going to happen?

    >> i think he's --

    >> still more on the fence.

    >> i talked to him last week. he said that he is very much encouraged by that's happening and is still going that direction. although --

    >> we'll see him in new hampshire on thursday. he's not canceling those trips.

    >> does he know that? careful.

    >> together in new hampshire .

    >> south carolina , washington, d.c., new hampshire .

    >> he is acting like a candidate. going everywhere.

    >> it's happening again. we're out

Explainer: The 2012 GOP presidential field

  • A look at the Republican candidates hoping to challenge Barack Obama in the general election.

  • Rick Perry, announced Aug. 13

    Image: Perry
    Sean Gardner  /  REUTERS
    Texas Gov. Rick Perry

    Mere hours before a major GOP debate in Iowa (and a couple of days before the high-interest Ames straw poll), the Perry camp announced that the Texas governor was all-in for 2012.

    Click here to see a slideshow of the Texas governor.

    While some on ground in the early-caucus state criticized the distraction, strategists applauded the move and said Perry was giving Romney a run for his money.

    Slideshow: A look at Gov. Rick Perry's political career

    He may face fierce opposition from secular groups and progressives who argue that his religious rhetoric violates the separation of church and state and that his belief that some groups, such as the Boy Scouts of America, should be allowed to discriminate against gays is bigoted.

  • Jon Huntsman, announced June 21

    Image: Jon Hunt
    Mandel Ngan  /  AFP - Getty Images file
    Outgoing U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman

    Huntsman, a former governor of Utah, made his bid official on June 21 at at Liberty State Park in New Jersey.

    Click here to see a slideshow of the former governor of Utah.

    He vowed to provide "leadership that knows we need more than hope" and "leadership that doesn’t promise Washington has all the solutions to our problems."

    The early days of his campaign were clouded with reports of internal discord among senior staffers.

    Slideshow: Jon Huntsman Jr.

    Huntsman, who is Mormon, worked as a missionary in Taiwan and is fluent in Mandarin. But his moderate credentials — backing civil unions for gays and the cap-and-trade energy legislation — could hurt him in a GOP primary. So could serving under Obama.

  • Michele Bachmann, announced on June 13

    Image: Michele Bachmann
    Larry Downing  /  REUTERS
    Rep. Michele Bachmann

    Born and raised in Iowa, this Tea Party favorite and Minnesota congresswoman announced during a June 13 GOP debate that she's officially in the running for the Republican nomination.

    Click here to see a slideshow of the Minn. congresswoman.

    Bachmann tells The Associated Press she decided to jump into the 2012 race at this time because she believed it was "the right thing to do."

    She's been criticized for making some high-profile gaffes — among them, claiming taxpayers would be stuck with a $200 million per day tab for President Barack Obama's trip to India and identifying New Hampshire as the site of the Revolutionary War's opening shots.

    Slideshow: The political life of Michele Bachmann

    But Bachmann's proved a viable fundraiser, collecting more than $2 million in political contributions in the first 90 days of 2011 — slightly exceeding the $1.8 million Mitt Romney brought in via his PAC in the first quarter.

  • Rick Santorum, announced on June 6

    Image: Rick Santorum
    Charlie Neibergall  /  AP file
    Former Penn. Sen. Rick Santorum

    A staunch cultural conservative vehemently against abortion and gay marriage, the former Pennsylvania senator hopes to energize Republicans with a keen focus on social issues.

    He announced the launch of a presidential exploratory committee on FOX News, where he makes regular appearances. He make his run official on June 6 in Somerset, Pa., asking supporters to "Join the fight!"

    Click here to see a slideshow of the former Pennsylvania senator.

    No stranger to controversy, Santorum was condemned by a wide range of groups in 2003 for equating homosexuality with incest, pedophilia and bestiality. More recently, Santorum faced criticism when he called Obama’s support for abortion rights “almost remarkable for a black man.”

    Slideshow: Rick Santorum's political life

    Since his defeat by Democrat Robert Casey in his 2006 re-election contest — by a whopping 18 percentage points — Santorum has worked as an attorney and as a think-tank contributor.

    A February straw poll at CPAC had him in twelfth place amongst Republicans with 2 percent of the vote.

  • Mitt Romney, announced on June 2

    Image: Mitt Romney
    Paul Sancya  /  AP file
    Former Massachusetts Gov. and presidential candidate Mitt Romney

    The former Massachusetts governor and 2008 presidential candidate has spent the last three years laying the foundations for another run at the White House — building a vigorous political action committee, making regular media appearances, and penning a policy-heavy book.

    Click here to see a slideshow of the former Mass. governor.

    In April, he announced, via YouTube and Twitter, that he'd formed an exploratory commitee. Romney made his run official in Stratham, N.H., on June 2.

    The former CEO of consulting firm Bain & Company and the president of the organizing committee for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Romney frequently highlights his business background as one of his main qualifications to serve as president.

    Slideshow: Mitt Romney's life in politics

    To capture the nomination, Romney will have to defend the health care overhaul he enacted during his governorship — legislation that bears similarities to the Obama-backed bill despised by many conservatives. He'll also have to overcome the perception of being a flip-flopper (like supporting abortion rights in his 1994 and 2002 bids for office, but opposing them in his '08 run).

    In the first quarter of 2011, he netted some $1.8 million through his PAC "Free and Strong America."

  • Herman Cain, announced on May 21

    Image: Herman Cain
    Brendan Smialowski  /  Getty Images file
    Talk show host Herman Cain

    Cain, an Atlanta radio host and former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza, has support from some Tea Party factions.

    Click here to see a slideshow of the Atlanta radio host.

    An African-American who describes himself as a “citizen’s candidate,” he was the first Republican to form a formal presidential exploratory committee. He officially entered the race in May, telling supporters, "When we wake up and they declare the presidential results, and Herman Cain is in the White House, we'll all be able to say, free at last! Free at last! Thank God almighty, this nation is free at last, again!"

    Prior to the release of President Obama's long-form birth certificate, Cain rehashed the birther theory, telling a Florida blogger, “I respect people that believe he should prove his citizenship ... He should prove he was born in the United States of America.”

  • Ron Paul, announced on May 13

    Image: Ron Paul
    Cliff Owen  /  AP file
    Rep. Ron Paul

    In 2008, Texas congressman Ron Paul’s libertarian rallying cry — and his opposition to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars — did not fall on deaf ears. An idiosyncratic foe of the Federal Reserve and a passionate advocate for limited government, Paul mounted a presidential run that was characterized by bursts of jaw-dropping online fundraising.

    Click here to see a slideshow of the Texas congressman.

    Slideshow: Ron Paul

    He officially launched his 2012 campaign in New Hampshire, saying, ""The revolution is spreading, and the momentum is building ... Our time has come."

    In the first quarter of 2011, raked in some $3 million through his various political organizations.

  • Newt Gingrich, announced on May 11

    Image: Newt Gingrich
    John M. Heller  /  Getty Images file
    Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich

    The former speaker of the House who led the 1994 “Republican Revolution,” Gingrich remains a robust presence on the GOP stage as a prolific writer and political thinker. In recent years, Barack Obama has provided a new target for the blistering critiques Gingrich famously leveled at President Bill Clinton.

    Click here to see a slideshow of the former speaker of the House.

    In early May, he made his 2012 run official. "I have been humbled by all the encouragement you have given me to run," Gingrich wrote on Facebook and Twitter.

    But a month later, the campaign was practically in ruins — with his campaign manager, spokesman, senior strategists all resigning en masse. Most cited issues with the "direction" of the campaign. But Gingrich vowed to press on.

    Slideshow: Newt Gingrich

    Also at issue: Gingrich’s personal life could make winning the support of social conservatives thorny for the twice-divorced former lawmaker. In a damning interview earlier this year, Esquire quoted one of Gingrich’s former wives describing him as a hypocrite who preached the sanctity of marriage while in the midst of conducting an illicit affair.

    Additional obstacles include his recent criticism of Rep. Paul Ryan’s fiscal plan as “right-wing social engineering" and reports of a $500,000 line of credit to Tiffany’s, the luxury jewelry company.

  • Gary Johnson, announced on April 21

    Image:Gary Johnson
    Jim Cole  /  AP
    Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson

    The former New Mexico governor took a big leap in late April, not by announcing an exploratory committee, but by actually announcing his official candidacy. “I’m running for president of the United States,” he told a couple of supporters and cameramen gathered for his announcement outside the New Hampshire State Capitol.

    He's a steadfast libertarian who supports the legalization of marijuana. He vetoed more than 700 pieces of legislation during his two terms as governor.


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