(Jim Cole / Associated Press )
The hard part will come later, but for Mitt Romney, it was nothing but blue skies on Thursday.
On a sunny afternoon at a New Hampshire farm, the Republican made the long-expected announcement that he officially is a candidate for the party's 2012 presidential nomination, portraying himself as a battle-tested crisis manager.
“Turning around a crisis takes experience and bold action, and for millions of Americans, the economy is in crisis today,” Romney, in casual dress, told the crowd gathered in Stratham, N.H. “Unless we change course, it will be a crisis tomorrow.”
Romney, in a sense, has been running for president ever since he pulled out of 2008 race. This time around, he has pledged to run a leaner, more disciplined campaign, one that will attempt to establish the kind of everyday rapport with voters than seemed to elude him in his first attempt.
The former venture capitalist and ex-governor of Massachusetts is banking on his economic expertise to be a difference-maker. “If you want to create jobs, it helps to have actually have had a job,” he said.
He said President Obama had “failed America,” and repeatedly suggested that Obama sought a European-style government. “Barack Obama’s European answers are not the solution to America’s problems,” he said. "We’re only inches away from ceasing to be a free economy.”
Romney, 64, continued to try and navigate a fine line in attacking the Democratic healthcare overhaul while defending a similar program he helped enact in Massachusetts. Of his plan, he said, “It was a state solution to our state’s problems.”
The location of the announcement was strategic. Romney, who owns a summer home in New Hampshire, is counting heavily on winning the state’s first-in-the-nation primary early next year. He is expected to focus his efforts there in coming months rather than in the early-contest state of Iowa, where the GOP caucuses are dominated by the kind of social conservatives who remain wary of the New Englander.
Romney' s announcement was upstaged slightly by the impending arrival of Sarah Palin, who was expected to attend a clambake later in the day on the state’s seacoast. Earlier Thursday, as her bus tour took her through Boston, Palin blasted Romney’s healthcare plan because it requires residents to purchase health insurance.
"In my opinion, any mandate coming from government is not a good thing, so obviously ... there will be more the explanation coming from former Gov. Romney on his support for government mandates," Palin said at Bunker Hill, according to NBC News.
The Palin attack served as a reminder that Romney, despite the sunny skies Thursday, still has a great deal of work to do to win over skeptical conservatives.