Updated 4:41 p.m. -- On the same day former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty announced he'd hired a highly regarded campaign manager, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney finally announced he was taking his own anticipated presidential bid to the next level and forming a formal presidential exploratory committee.
Romney has had a consistent message for some time now, focusing on job growth and the economy, and using his background as a successful businessman to argue that he would be better than Obama at creating jobs and lowering the unemployment rate.
That's the message he launched with in this video, too, starting with an anecdote about visiting Nevada, where unemployment is over 13 percent and homes lie vacant or in foreclosure. "How has this happened in the nation that leads the world in innovation and productivity?" he asked. "The answer is that President Obama's policies have failed," he said, arguing that Obama and his advisors "just don't know how jobs are created in the private sector."
Romney's focus on jobs, the dominant voting issue in the 2010 contests and the one thing more Americans say they care about than anything else, signals a bet that addressing the main concern of the American people, even in a Republican primary, is the route to the presidency. Combined with his focus on New Hampshire in the video (and in general -- it's become a must-win state for his campaign), Romney's message signals an intent to not slog it out trying to win the ancillary issue fights that can dominate the conversation -- and diminish a candidate's national stature -- in the Iowa Caucuses. More importantly, he's not positioning himself as a cutter, even if he believes in smaller government (as he clearly does -- his '08 stump had a whole long riff on the sensible consolidations made in Mass. during his tenure), but as a creator (of jobs). That's probably wise for now, as the budget battles over the next year are going to be intense and divisive, and will likely leave a mark on those who fight them, and change the debate on shrinking government and the budget in unpredictable ways.
The video was filmed on location in New Hampshire Monday after Romney spoke with a group of students at the University of New Hampshire. After Pawlenty and Newt Gingrich, he is the third of the pack of likely GOP presidential primary contenders to make it official that he is exploring a run, a legal status that will allow him to raise funds for a bid.
"It is time that we put America back on a course of greatness, with a growing economy, good jobs and fiscal discipline in Washington," Romney said.
His full statement follows:
Hello, I'm Mitt Romney. This morning I spoke with a number of students here at the University of New Hampshire. Like young people all over the country, they wonder whether they'll find good jobs when they graduate.
Last week, in Nevada, I walked through a neighborhood with homes vacant or in foreclosure. Unemployment there is over 13%. Across the nation, over 20 million Americans still can't find a job, or have given up looking.
How has this happened in the nation that leads the world in innovation and productivity? The answer is that President Obama's policies have failed. He and virtually all the people around him have never worked in the real economy. They just don't know how jobs are created in the private sector.
That's where I spent my entire career. In 1985, I helped found a company. At first, we had ten employees; today there are hundreds.
My work led me to become deeply involved in helping other businesses, from innovative startups to large companies going through tough times. Sometimes I was successful and helped create jobs, other times I was not. I learned how America competes with companies in other countries, why jobs leave, and how jobs are created here at home.
Later, when I served as governor of Massachusetts, I used the skills I had learned in 25 years in business to streamline state government, balance the budget every year, and restore a 2 billion dollar rainy day fund.
From my vantage point in business and in government, I have become convinced that America has been put on a dangerous course by Washington politicians, and it has become even worse during the last two years. But I am also convinced that with able leadership, America's best days are still ahead.
That is why today I am announcing my Exploratory Committee for the Presidency of the United States.
It is time that we put America back on a course of greatness, with a growing economy, good jobs and fiscal discipline in Washington.
I believe in America. I believe in the freedom and opportunity, and the principles of our constitution, that have led us to become the greatest nation in the history of the earth - and I believe that these principles will confirm American's future as well.
This effort is not about a person, it is about the cause of American freedom and greatness. I'd like to ask you to join with us - volunteer, donate, or just pass this along to a friend. Thanks so much.