WASHINGTON -- Mitt Romney became, on Tuesday, the first of the potential 2012 GOP presidential contenders to call for the exit of Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak.
Speaking on ABC's "Good Morning America," Romney said although President Obama should not publicly support Mubarak's removal, the time for it had come.
"I don't know that I would say to the president, 'You should call for Mubarak's resignation,' " Romney said. "That, I think, flies in the face of a long history of friendship between he and our country and our friends, but it is very clear that [Mubarak] needs to move on and transition to the voices of democracy."
Romney largely praised the administration's response to the crisis, aligning himself with Republican leaders in Congress who favor a unified approach to the unrest in Egypt. Other potential candidates, such as Newt Gingrich and Mike Huckabee, have been more alarmist, warning that Mubarak's departure could lead to a takeover of the nation's government by the Muslim Brotherhood, a political group that claims its goals are secular but whom some critics view as Islamic radicals.
Sounding more and more like a candidate each day, Romney also offered up a full-throated defense of the healthcare law he helped craft while he was governor of Massachusetts. That law served as a template for the sweeping overhaul passed by Congress last year. A federal judge in Florida on Monday ruled the entire law was unconstitutional because of its mandate that Americans buy health insurance -- and the legislation is likely to be debated by the U.S. Supreme Court.
"I'm not apologizing for it," he said, "I'm indicating that we went in one direction, and there are other possible directions. I'd like to see states pursue their own ideas, see which ideas work best."
Romney's detractors have maintained that his ties to healthcare reform could be a handicap in primaries that skew toward the "tea party," but he said the Massachusetts law was an example of the supremacy of states' rights.
"That was the whole idea of our federal democracy; we'd have people be able to try different ideas state to state, but what we did not do was say that the federal government can make its choice and impose it on all of the states," he said. "That is one of the reasons why this bill is unconstitutional."
He also called on Obama to suspend implementation of the healthcare law while its legality remained an issue.
Although Romney has kept a lower profile than other potential presidential entrants, such as Huckabee and Sarah Palin, Tuesday's interview was part of an aggressive media agenda tied to the release of his book "No Apology: The Case for American Greatness."
Romney will appear on ABC's "The View" later Tuesday morning and will be interviewed on CNN's "Piers Morgan Tonight" in the evening.
The presidential race grew more tantalizing Monday with the resignation of Jon Huntsman, the U.S. ambassador to China. If he enters the fray, the former Utah governor could compete for many of the moderate and upper-income Republican voters that Romney is expected to court.