Romney Formally Launches 2012 Presidential Campaign

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney declared his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination Thursday with a speech (video) aimed at clearly defining himself as an experienced businessman ready to take control of the nation’s struggling economy from President Obama, whom he portrayed as overwhelmed by his responsibilities.

Romney, who is a leader in several early polls, has essentially been running for the nomination for months, but made it official in the state that is home to the first primary. “I’m Mitt Romney, I believe in America, and I’m running for president of the United States,” he declared at a farm in the town of Stratham.

This is Romney’s second campaign for the presidency, after losing the nomination to John McCain in 2008.

The former governor’s campaign speech was focused on jobs and the economy, likely, to be the big issues in the 2012 contest. As the New York Times reported Wednesday, no president since Franklin D. Roosevelt has won reelection with an unemployment above 7.2 percent, and it now stands around 9 percent.

Romney focused much of his speech on criticizing the president’s job performance, arguing that Mr. Obama made the recession that started in 2007 worse. Romney launched into a “three years later” refrain in which he highlighted high unemployment, high gas prices and record foreclosures as evidence that President Obama hasn’t been an effective manager of the nation’s economy.

“It breaks my heart to see what is happening to this country,” Romney said. “These failing hopes make up President Obama’s own misery index. It’s never been higher. And what’s his answer? He says this: ‘I’m just getting started.’No, Mr. President, you’ve had your chance. We, the people on this farm, and citizens across the country are the ones who are just getting started,” Romney said, to cheers from the crowd.

Romney also spoke about his own record as manager of a investment firm, an Olympics official for the 2002 Winter games in Salt Lake City, and governor of Massachusetts. Romney argued that his experience as a leader in those jobs make him qualified to turn the nation’s economy around.

“Turning around a crisis takes experienced leadership and bold action. For millions of Americans, the economy is in crisis today, and unless we change course, it will be in crisis for all of us tomorrow,” Romney said.

Romney joins a growing field of candidates who have officially entered the race for the Republican nomination, including former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, Texas Congressman Ron Paul, businessman Herman Cain and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

He is considered by many to be a frontrunner and often polls first or among the top contenders for the nomination, and is expected to raise a hefty amount of money to support his campaign. Last month Romney was able to raise more than $10 million in one day.

Romney’s base of support within the Republican Party appears to come from Republican leaning independents, upper income, and higher educated voters. As the establishment frontrunner, he will likely face a populist challenge from his right. Possible candidate and former governor of Alaska Sarah Palin was already criticizing Romney as he was officially launching his campaign.

Palin said Romney’s signature universal health care reform in Massachusetts, which became a model for President Obama’s health care legislation, was bad policy. The policy included a provision that required that state residents purchase health insurance.

“[E]ven on a state level and even a local level, mandates coming from a governing body, it’s tough for a lot of us independent Americans to accept, because we have great faith in the private sectors and our own families, and our own businessmen and women making decisions for ourselves,” Palin told reporters Thursday, according to the Associated Press.

Romney’s said that while his Massachusetts plan was not perfect, he favors a state-based approach to health care policy, and thinks that the national policy enacted under President Obama goes too far. Romney said he would repeal the national health care reform law.

Democrats are also hitting Romney on his record. The Democratic National Committee released this video Thursday showing Romney taking different positions on health care reform, the economic stimulus and the bank bailout program.