STRATHAM, N.H. (AP) - Just as Mitt Romney declared Thursday that
he's in, it's suddenly looking like he'll have more company in his
campaign for the Republican presidential nomination.
While Romney made his candidacy official in New Hampshire,
political heavyweights Sarah Palin and Rudy Giuliani caused a stir
of their own with visits to the first-in-the-nation primary state.
And rumblings from Texas Gov. Rick Perry, New Jersey Gov. Chris
Christie and Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota further undercut
Romney's standing as the closest thing the GOP has to a
"I'm Mitt Romney and I believe in America. And I'm running for
president of the United States," Romney said to cheers on a sunny
farm here in Southern New Hampshire.
The former business executive previewed a campaign message
focused on the economic woes that top voters' concerns: rising gas
prices, stubbornly high unemployment and persistent foreclosures.
"It breaks my heart to see what is happening to this great
country," Romney said. "No, Mr. President, you had your chance."
It's a pitch 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 statement on his viability as
it is an indictment of Obama's leadership.
"Barack Obama has failed America," Romney said as he began his
second White House bid. "When Barack Obama took office, the
economy was in recession, and he made it worse."
Romney comes to a presidential contest that lacks a true
In the last week, the still-forming field became less certain
with Giuliani visiting an Italian restaurant here and meeting
privately with state activists. In North Conway, Giuliani said he
hasn't decided yet if he will run again and that he expects to make
up his mind by the end of the summer.
But he certainly sounded like a candidate, telling reporters
that the nation is being led in the wrong direction by Obama.
"He's been in office a very long time now and his results on
the economy have been abysmal," Giuliani said. "His only answer
to it has been, `Oh, I inherited this.' Well, my goodness, he's
been in office long enough now, so that whatever he inherited, he
should've straightened out by now."
Palin, her party's 2008 vice presidential nominee, was set to
arrive in New Hampshire later Thursday for appearances that
highlighted her potential to upend the race should she run. Aides
weren't releasing her schedule, but her family's bus tour that
rumbled out of Washington last weekend was likely to overshadow the
Perry, too, gave hints he was considering a bid, though his
aides sought to tamp down expectations he would join. Tea party
darling Bachmann is inching toward a run, perhaps giving the
anti-tax, libertarian-leaning grassroots movement a candidate to
"Who is it that rules this great nation?" Romney said in a nod
to tea partyers. "You do."
Embracing familiar conservative rhetoric, Romney said Obama has
spent his first three years in office apologizing to the world for
the United States' greatness, undercutting Israel and borrowing
European-style economic policies. He cast Obama as beholden to
Democratic interest groups and indifferent to out-of-work
"It's time for a president who cares more about America's
workers than America's union bosses," Romney said.
He said Obama's policy in Afghanistan was wrong, his spending
too high and said his administration sought to seize power through
regulation and fiat.
"This president's first answer to every problem is to take
power from you. ... And with each of those decisions, we lose more
of our freedoms," Romney said.
Romney's strengths are substantial: He's well known and he's an
experienced campaigner. He has a personal fortune and an existing
network of donors. He has a successful businessman's record.
But his challenges are big, too. They include a record of
changing positions on social issues including abortion and gay
rights, shifts that have left conservatives questioning his
sincerity. He also has struggled to allay some skeptics of his
Romney oversaw a health care law enacted in Massachusetts that's
similar to Obama's national health overhaul, which conservatives
"If I ran through all my mistakes, Ann would love it and you'd
be here all night," Romney said, referencing his wife but not
explicitly acknowledging the hurdle while calling for a repeal of
Democrats' national plan.
His rivals weren't about to let it go. Asked about how big a
problem Romney faces regarding the Massachusetts health care law,
Giuliani was critical.
"The reality is that Obamacare and Romneycare are almost
exactly the same," Giuliani said. "It's not very helpful trying
to distinguish them. I would think the best way to handle it is to
say, it was a terrible mistake and if I could do it over again, I
wouldn't do it."
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)