Romney's plan: challenge Obama on the economy

WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 11: Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney addresses the Conservative Political Action Conference at the Marriott Wardman Park February 11, 2011 in Washington, DC. A dozen potential Republican presidental hopefuls are set to address CPAC, the biggest gathering of conservative activists in the country. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Mitt Romney Chip Somodevilla

Chip Somodevilla

Mitt Romney officially launches his presidential bid in New Hampshire today with a direct challenge to President Obama on the economy.

At a farm in Stratham, the former Massachusetts governor plans to tell voters that "Barack Obama has failed America" and that it's time for a more experienced economic leader. He'll contrast his record as a private sector leader with Mr. Obama's experience, according to a senior adviser, and deliver "a serious speech for serious times."

Yet as he begins his second bid for the White House, Romney faces some challenges. He's largely a known quantity among Republican primary voters and has yet to generate significant enthusiasm for his campaign. Among Republicans, he's plagued by his health care reforms in Massachusetts; and Democrats continue to pin him with familiar labels, calling him a "flip-flopper."

Romney hopes to overcome all of that, however, by focusing on the issue that's first and foremost on voters' minds: "From my first day in office my number one job will be to see that America once again is number in job creation," he'll say, according to his prepared remarks. Americans deserve to get ahead if they work hard, Romney will say, instead of being "crushed by this Obama economy."

The former governor intends to make other economic promises, such as capping federal spending at 20 percent and balancing the budget.

He's also promising "a complete repeal of Obamacare," though it's unclear whether he'll address the health care reforms he implemented in Massachusetts, which have been dubbed "Romneycare." Romney has already strenuously argued that his health care reforms were different than those implemented at the federal level.

The Democratic National Committee has seized on some of Romney's seemingly conflicting statements on health care, as well as on issues like the bank bailouts, in a new video rolled out today in conjunction with Romney's speech.

While he may not mention his health care plan today, voters will get a chance to question Romney about it directly Friday, when he holds a town hall meeting in Manchester.

It's clear Romney is gunning for the state of New Hampshire -- in addition to launching his official candidacy there, he also announced his presidential exploratory committee there -- so expectations are set that he must win the state's early primary if he wants to remain a viable candidate. His potential opponents aren't ceding the state to him, however -- Sarah Palin's "One Nation" bus tour stops in New Hampshire this week, and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman is expected to make an appearance there this week as well. Even former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, recently named as another possible presidential contender, is in the state today.

Romney has consistently come out ahead of his opponents in Republican polls, though not by much. But his frontrunner status is bolstered by a strong campaign organization and network of donors, illustrated by the more than $10 million he was able to raise in a single day last month.

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