"I do not believe Washington can be transformed from within by a lifelong politician," Romney said, seeking to turn a potential liability, his limited political experience, into an asset. "There have been too many deals, too many favors, too many entanglements — and too little real world experience managing, guiding, leading."
Romney's remarks were also a veiled swipe at his chief rival for the GOP nomination, four-term Sen. John McCain of Arizona.
In elective office only four years, Romney is not nearly as well known nationally as McCain and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, political celebrities who consistently lead popularity polls.
But Romney, a serious contender even though he is little more than a blip in such surveys, is seeking to convince Republican primary voters that his record of success in the private, public and voluntary sectors proves he has the know-how to lead a country at a crossroads.
If elected, Romney will be the nation's first Mormon president.
To many Americans, the Mormon church is an unknown — shrouded in secrecy and stereotype, dating back more than a century when Mormons were allowed to have multiple wives, reports CBS News correspondent Gloria Borger.
A shows that most Americans don't know enough about the religion to have an opinion, though more than two-thirds say they could vote for a qualified Mormon.
"We have lost faith in government, not in just one party, not in just one house, but in government," Romney said. "It is time for innovation and transformation in Washington. It is what our country needs. It is what our people deserve."
And, Romney said, he is the candidate who has proven he can deliver.
"Talk is easy, talk is cheap. It is doing that is hard. And it is only in doing that hope and dreams come to life," Romney added.
A successful venture capitalist who amassed a fortune and the savior of the scandal-plagued 2002 Winter Olympic Games, Romney hopes the party's conservative wing will focus on his deft managerial skills — and set aside any uneasiness it may have about his faith and his credentials on issues it holds dear.
In what amounts to a made-for-TV coming-out tour, Romney announced his candidacy in Michigan, the place of his birth and upbringing as well as an important stop on the path to the GOP nomination. He then heads to other states that hold early primaries and caucuses — Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina — before returning to Boston for a major fundraiser. The three-day swing intended to introduce the strikingly handsome candidate to the nation.
Opening the tour, Romney gave a speech to hundreds of supporters at the sprawling Henry Ford Museum outside of Detroit, the automotive capital and a site chosen for its emphasis on ingenuity that changed the nation.
Juxtaposing the present with the past, Romney stood on stage at a podium before an American Motors Corp. Rambler from yesteryear and a Ford Escape Hybrid in the airport-hangar-like Henry Ford Museum, as he invoked the memory of his late father. A Michigan governor in the 1960s and an AMC chief executive, George Romney made a short-lived attempt at the presidency four decades ago.
A son seeking to succeed where a father failed, Romney became an official GOP presidential candidate. He was flanked by his wife since 1969, Ann, their five sons and five daughters-in-law, and the Romneys' 10 grandchildren — a not-so-subtle message that he is a family man.