Image: Romney announces he is formally entering the race for the 2012 Republican U.S. presidential nomination in Stratham, New Hampshire
Brian Snyder  /  Reuters
Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney announces that he is formally entering the race for the 2012 Republican U.S. presidential nomination in Stratham, New Hampshire on Thursday.
updated 6/2/2011 2:09:54 PM ET 2011-06-02T18:09:54

Republican Mitt Romney says President Barack Obama has failed the United States and is pitching himself as an alternative who can fix the nation's ailing economy.

The former Massachusetts governor on Thursday made official his White House run and offered a blistering critique of President Barack Obama. Romney says he would rein in Washington spending and put the country on a course toward economic recovery.

Romney, the closest thing to a frontrunner in a Republican field that lacks one, made his announcement in New Hampshire, a state crucial to his strategy. He came in second place in New Hampshire during his 2008 bid and has invested heavily in the state since.

During a farm visit, Romney said his first priority will be to make America the world's top job creator.

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Romney takes center stage

His pitch was tailored to the conservatives who hold great sway in picking the GOP's presidential nominee in Iowa and South Carolina — and the independents who are the largest political bloc in New Hampshire. And it is as much a thesis on his viability as it is an indictment of Obama's leadership.

"A few years ago, Americans did something that was, actually, very much the sort of thing Americans like to do: We gave someone new a chance to lead, someone we hadn't known for very long, who didn't have much of a record but promised to lead us to a better place," Romney said, describing the man he hopes to meet head-to-head in November 2012.

Story: Romney seeks 2nd chance with GOP presidential bid

"At the time, we didn't know what sort of a president he would make. ... Now, in the third year of his four-year term, we have more than promises and slogans to go by. Barack Obama has failed America."

In the speech, the former Massachusetts governor launches into a scathing critique of Washington, a place where he has never served.

Decrying federal spending, the one-term governor promised, "My generation will pass the torch to the next generation, not a bill."

Romney comes to a presidential contest that lacks a front-runner. In the past week, the still-forming field became less certain with hints that Texas Gov. Rick Perry was considering a bid. Tea party darling Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota is inching toward a run, perhaps giving the anti-tax,libertarian-leaning grassroots movement a candidate to rally around.

Romney sought to claim a slice of that constituency when describing families struggling to get by.

"It doesn't matter if they are Republican or Democrat, independent or libertarian," Romney said. "They're just Americans ... an American family."

Meanwhile, Sarah Palin, her party's 2008 vice presidential nominee, continued a bus tour that not only highlighted her potential to upend the race but also served as a contrast to the lackluster enthusiasm for those already running for president. She was set to appear in New Hampshire at a clambake Thursday, although her aides and advisers were not providing schedules and her supporters in the state were left looking for guidance.

Palin fires shot at Romney at Bunker Hill

Shift in strategy
Romney has built an experienced political team, collected serious campaign cash and crafted a campaign that is ready to go full-bore. While his likely opponents have jostled for the spotlight, Romney largely has worked in private to fine-tune his political machine. He has chosen to weigh in through statements and editorial pages instead of interviews with journalists or town hall-style meetings with voters.

On Friday, Romney starts to shift that strategy. He has scheduled his first town hall meeting for Manchester and later planned to speak at a Faith and Freedom forum in Washington.

Story: The 2012 GOP presidential field

Party leaders have yet to rally around him. Romney hopes his tough talk will inspire support.

"We are only inches away from ceasing to be a free market economy," he said, decrying Obama's health care overhaul — a federal version of the one Romney signed into law for Massachusetts.

"From my first day in office my No. 1 job will be to see that America once again is No. 1 in job creation," he said.

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Video: Romney announces presidential bid

  1. Closed captioning of: Romney announces presidential bid

    >>> and don't think there aren't huge political implications to all this. the obama white house expected things to be better. and for the rnens, this, of course, gives them something substantial to run on. as of today, that officially includes mitt romney . sionof the michigan family, a fo mormon, ceo, former governor.

    >> these failing hopes make up president obama 's own misery index . it's never been higher. what's his answer? he sethis, i'm just getting started.

    >> so chief white house correspondent, political director chuck todd gets to follow another official candidate in the race. you heard mitt romney call the president a failure and is using the economic issue going forward.

    >> inthe entire speech was about this, trying to create the contrast on the economy. he's not going to be alone. as the unemployment dmbs don't go down, you're going to see more and hoar. for mitt romney , he's seeing this as his only path. he's got a lot of issues with the republican party . he thinks he can convince the skeptics on the right he's the best man for this due to his business background.

    >> at the place where you are right now, in the west wing of the white house today, i think it's fair to see what we said a few moments ago. they sure thought it was going to be better than this by now.

    >> well, you know, i talked to quite a few folks around here today. and it was -- there were some very sober conversations when it comes to the economy. they say, look, this week wasn't just the only bad week. there have been the last four to six weeks have given them cause for concern. three key issues. the gas price issue, the european debt issue, and the political stalemate over the debt ceiling. the stalemate and the debt issue create a confidence issue, and they're worried it could snowball, particularly if the report is bad tomorrow. they're still optimistic about the second half of the year. plenty of private forecasters believe there's going to be growth. japan's economy could help american exports. they think the trade issue with new trade agreements will help increase business investments and exports. that said, their fear is what you had a talk with with our friends at nbc. it's not a double-dip recession. it's sort of this flat, stagnation, no growth. that's the view.

    >> chuck, with the view at the white house and elsewhere.

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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