STRATHAM, N.H. — Mitt Romney, declaring that "Barack Obama has failed America," announced his candidacy for president Thursday by painting himself as a staunch conservative deeply committed to creating private-sector jobs and slashing the size of government.
"I'm going to insist that Washington respect the Constitution," the putative front-runner for the 2012 Republican nomination said, adding that he would "return responsibility and authority to the states for dozens of government programs — and that begins with a complete repeal of Obamacare."
Widely regarded as a moderate-to-conservative governor of Massachusetts when he led the state from 2003 to 2007, Romney signed into law a plan that's considered the model for the federal measure. And when running for president in 2008, he said, "I like mandates. The mandates work."
This year, and again Thursday, he explained that states are in the best position to judge what's best for their residents — and that while his law fit Massachusetts, other states should do what's best for them.
Romney, 64, desperately needs to win this state's primary, traditionally the nation's first. He has a home in Wolfeboro, is far ahead in state polls, is well-known to voters in the state's populous southern tier and has a strong political and fundraising organization.
His appeal lies less with the hardcore right than with the GOP's mainstream economic conservatives who have long dominated the state party, a group less doctrinaire than the tea party crowd.
Meanwhile, Rep. Michele Bachmann, a possible contender to Romney, plans to participate in a presidential debate in New Hampshire this month, a move that further signals the Minnesota Republican expects to be a candidate for the 2012 nomination. Also expected to participate in the debate: Tim Pawlenty, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, Herman Cain and Romney.