By Philip Elliott and Holly Ramer, Associated PressBy Jon Keller

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 front-runner.

“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.

WBZ’s Jon Keller is at large:

“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 front-runner.

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 declared candidates.

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 rally around.

“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 Americans.

“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 Mormon faith.

Romney oversaw a health care law enacted in Massachusetts that’s similar to Obama’s national health overhaul, which conservatives despise.

“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.”


Ramer reported from Concord.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

Comments (8)
  1. tsal says:

    I would have liked it a lot better if he had one thing concrete to say about what he plans to do. Sadly, I have come to realize that those that only attack others have very little to offer of their own. I hope someone gets the message to him so he can actually say something concrete. If making mistakes in your first term in office is an indication that you should not be elected again, then he better remember all was not rosy in MA when he was governor.

  2. taxedout says:

    If making mistakes in your first term in office is an indication that you should not be elected again, your talking about Obama, right????

    1. tsal says:

      No taxed out I’m talking about Romney. He also made mistakes. He is campaigning against Obama by using the premise that Obama had a chance and made mistakes and therefore should not be elected. It’s a ridiculous statement of course because I do not believe you could find any pol who has not made mistakes – Romney included. If you remember correctly, he moved on to the race for president before his feet even hit the floor on Beacon Hill. And before the righties come out of the woodwork, I’m not bashing Romney because I also feel he did some things very right. If Romney would actually state his positions – and mean them – he is one of the few on Republicans I would think about for 2012.

  3. emom says:

    With all the candidate that have come forward and have said they were running or possibility running, do any of them even have what it takes to fix this country,, Obama has not gotten far, Do we want another 4 years , can we afford that, Romney messed up this state BIG TIME, can we afford to have him run the country, Palin hints at it, BUT what can she bring to this country , How has she done in Alaska, How do they feel about her, Do they think she can do it , Hillary Clinton tried to run the last time, But ended up in the white house doing something else,, could she do better, How did she do in NEW YORK, what’s their impression of her and if she can pull it off. Who else is out there, Gulliani has also hinted, HHMMM that’s questionable, who else , huckabee, ?????? No matter how we look at this , no matter who we vote in , we will always have the love them, hate them and the ones that saw did we vote for the right one, Hey look at this state,, and how many mistakes we have done,, You would think many would have learned from the first round of mistakes,,,,, Guess most don’t,,,,, either way I see it none come with promises, none come with solutions., no outlines for correcting the issues at hand, They come with the idea of creating some crazy tax so that they can have the money to create some foolish job for a member of their family, which is a none job, they come to create more of a mess and take more and more vital services away and yet still raise taxes and take more and more money from us and tell us WE ARE ON THE RIGHT PATH OF RECOVERY… So DO WE REALLY WANT MORE OF THE SAME,,,, do we truly know what they can do for this state, or do they even care about the true issues ,, I have not truly seen the good come out yet…

  4. gil mendozza zuntzes says:

    hum… JUST TO LET KNOW MY GOOD MASSACHUSETTS NEIGHBORS… THAT WE Hampshirites DO NOT WELCOME CROOKED/CRIMINAL POLITICIANS LIKE… Rudolph William Louis “Rudy” Giuliani nor Mitt “Waco” Romney… Michele Bachmann… and many others with the same Barack’s aliases.

  5. gil mendozaza zuntzes says:

    My best regards to Jon Keller/Dan Rey!

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