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Politics

Romney To Form Exploratory Committee

April 11, 2011

Mitt Romney, whose efforts to pitch himself as the most conservative Republican presidential candidate in 2008 fell short, is back for another try, announcing on Monday he will form an exploratory committee in advance of an anticipated presidential campaign.

Perhaps no other candidate could make an announcement as widely anticipated -- and anti-climactic -- as Romney. Widely anticipated because his fundraising prowess, organization and national profile makes him the presumptive frontunner. Anti-climactic because he began laying the groundwork for a second bid soon after bowing out of the 2008 Republican primary more than three years ago.

Romney's success in the business world could be his calling card if the campaign turns on who is best positioned to lead the U.S. out of the recession. His recent speeches have assailed President Obama's stewardship of the economy and emphasized that American exceptionalism is at stake. In a video announcing his candidacy, Romney touted that business experience much more than his tenure as governor of Massachusetts.

Romney's campaign has told donors his strategy centers on strong performances in New Hampshire and Nevada, two states in which he performed well in 2008. The team hopes to dampen expectations in Iowa, where Romney finished a disappointing second three years ago, and in South Carolina. Instead, the campaign aims to significantly outraise the rest of the Republican presidential field, enabling him to contest states that fall later in the primary calendar even if he stumbles early.

That fundraising prowess has already been on display. Romney's Free and Strong America was the fundraising leader in the 2010 election cycle among political action committees headed by likely presidential candidates. It raised about $9.2 million and gave away $1.3 million to candidates, building a reservoir of good will in key states.

And yet he faces serious questions about his campaign's viability. Romney's flip-flops on abortion and gay rights, as well as his Mormonism, have hindered his previous efforts to make inroads among religious conservatives. His biggest liability is widely considered to be the health care legislation he spearheaded as governor, a legacy Democrats gleefully touted by offering to "thank" Romney for his work on Tuesday, the bill's five-year anniversary.

Like the law that passed Congress that has become anathema among Republicans, the Massachusetts plan includes an "individual mandate" requiring most uninsured people to pay a penalty. Romney has drawn a contrast between the state law, which he defends, and a "one-size-fits-all plan for the entire nation," which he says should be repealed.

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