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Politics / POLITICS

Republican Romney to Form Exploratory Committee

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney at the National Press Club in Washington in December.(Win McNamee/Getty Images)

photo of Beth Reinhard
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 that 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 anticlimactic--as Romney: widely anticipated because his fundraising prowess, organization, and national profile make him the presumptive front-runner. Anticlimactic because he began laying the groundwork for a second bid soon after bowing out of the 2008 Republican primaries 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 his business experience much more than his tenure as governor of Massachusetts.

"From my vantage point in business and in government, I've become convinced that America has been put on a dangerous course by Washington politicians. And it's become even worse during the last two years," Romney said. "But I'm also convinced that with able leadership, America's best days are still ahead."

Meet the GOP's Potential Candidates


Romney was born and raised in Michigan, where his father served as governor, but he spent most of his adulthood in Massachusetts. After a lucrative career in management consulting and venture capitalism, Romney helped turn the troubled 2002 Winter Olympics into a success story and served as governor of Massachusetts from 2003 to 2007.

He received his bachelor’s degree from Brigham Young University and a master’s degree in business from Harvard University.

So far, Romney is the only candidate in the race who has run for president before, giving him an obvious leg up over his rivals. Mike Huckabee, who ran for president in 2008, and Sarah Palin, who was Republican nominee John McCain’s running mate, have not announced their plans yet.

Romney's campaign has told donors that 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 Romney faces serious questions about his campaign's viability. His 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 and 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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