Mitt Romney officially joined the race for the White House, saying President Obama failed to lead and has made the economy worse.
The former governor of Massachusetts made the formal announcement Thursday in New Hampshire, the first state in 2012 to hold a presidential primary.
“Barack Obama has failed America,” said Romney, dressed casually in a shirt without a tie and a large American flag behind him. “When he took office, the economy was in recession. He made it worse. And he made it last longer.”
Said Romney: “This country we love is in peril.”
Romney, who ran for president in 2008, is arguably the GOP front-runner, with high name recognition and a record of being skilled at fundraising. A former businessman who ran the Salt Lake City Olympics, Romney will argue his resume shows he’s best to take on President Obama in a time of economic turmoil.
Romney on Thursday promised to cap federal spending at 20 percent or less of the GDP and balance the budget. The former governor said he believes in an “America of freedom and opportunity” and claimed “President Obama sees a different America and has taken us in a different direction.”
He also took Obama on for his handling of foreign policy.
“A few months into office, he traveled around the globe to apologize for America,” Romney said. “At a time of historic change and great opportunity in the Arab world, he is hesitant and uncertain.”
Hurdles Romney will have to overcome in the primary, though, include RomneyCare, legislation he signed into law as governor that conservatives say is too similar to Obama’s health-care law, the notion that he has flip-flopped over the years on issues and Tea Party groups who have placed a target on his back.
Sarah Palin, the former 2008 vice presidential candidate touring New England this week, criticized Romney Thursday over his Massachusetts health-care law.
“In my opinion, any mandate coming from government is not a good thing, so obviously … there will be more the explanation coming from former governor, Romney, on his support for government mandates,” Palin said, according to NBC.
But Romney, who said he’s for repealing Obamacare, also defended his state’s healthcare law, saying, “I took it on and hammered out a solution that took a bad situation and made it better. Not perfect but it was a state solution for a state problem.”
Republicans who are also running include former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, businessman Herman Cain and Texas Rep. Ron Paul.
Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum are also likely to get in the race. Others said to be keeping the door open of running include Palin, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
A debate, hosted by CNN, for the GOP candidates is scheduled June 13 in Manchester, N.H.