Romney opens formal U.S. presidential bid

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Mitt Romney formally launched his 2012 presidential campaign Thursday, entering the race for the Republican nomination where he is already the presumed front-runner, but also seen as highly vulnerable.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Mitt Romney formally launched his 2012 presidential campaign Thursday, entering the race for the Republican nomination where he is already the presumed front-runner, but also seen as highly vulnerable.

Romney 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.

While the former Massachusetts governor leads among Republicans seeking to challenge President Barack Obama, he is considered too moderate by many conservatives who hold great sway in picking the party’s presidential nominee.

The Republican race is still in flux. Sarah Palin, the party’s 2008 vice-presidential nominee, has not said whether she will run. But she has captured headlines this week with a bus tour that highlighted her potential to upend the race.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry was considering a bid. Congresswoman Michele Bachmann was inching toward a run, perhaps giving the anti-tax, libertarian-leaning tea party movement a candidate to rally around. Other contentders include U.S. Rep. Ron Paul; former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty; former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, Obama’s ambassador to China; and former House speaker Newt Gingrich.

Romney has built an experienced political team and raised considerable money for his campaign. He has tried to appeal to the party’s right-wing by backing off earlier stands supporting abortion rights, gun control and gay rights.

In excerpts of a kick-off speech released ahead of his formal announcement, Romney’s campaign message stresses the economic woes that top voters’ frustrations: a lack of jobs, persistent foreclosures and runaway spending in Washington.

He attacked Obama as failing to carry out his commitments from the 2008 race. “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,” Romney said.

It’s a pitch tailored to the conservatives who in Iowa and South Carolina — and the independents who are the largest politic bloc in New Hampshire. The three states have early contests in the Republican nomination race.

Among the obstacles Romney will have to overcome are concerns by some evangelical Christians about his Mormon faith.

He is also vulnerable to criticism about his 2006 law he supported as governor requiring Massachusetts residents to obtain health insurance. That law was considered a model for Obama’s health care plan, which is almost universally disliked by Republicans. Romney has criticized Obama’s plan, while saying his program was right for his state at the time.

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