Mitt Romney announces presidential exploratory committee

Mitt Romney announcing his presidential exploratory committee in a video, April 11, 2011

Updated at 5 p.m. ET

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney today effectively jumped into the race for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination.

In a web video, the former governor announced the establishment of a presidential exploratory committee, which marks the first significant step for any potential candidate. The video features Romney speaking directly into the camera at the University of New Hampshire and focuses largely on the state of the economy.

"This morning I spoke with a number of students here at the University of New Hampshire," Romney says in the video. "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 percent. Across the nation, over 20 million Americans still can't find a job, or have given up looking."

Romney says in the video that President Obama is to blame since the president and most of his advisers haven't worked in the private sector. "They just don't know how jobs are created," he says.

He goes on to say he spent his "entire career" in the private sector, though he has largely dedicated himself to politics and public service since serving as governor of Massachusetts from 2002 to 2006, running for president in 2008 and helping raise funds for other politicians along the way. He says his experience as a businessman helped him streamline the Massachusetts government and balance the state budget every year.

"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," Romney says in the video. "But I am also convinced that with able leadership, America's best days are still ahead."

Romney is the second high-profile Republican to jump into the presidential race, following former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty. Other candidates who have formed exploratory committees include talk show host and businessman Herman Cain, former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer and former GOP strategist Fred Karger.

Recent polls show that Romney is often near the top of the list among Republican and Republican-leaning voters' preferred GOP presidential candidates. That said, his support among Republican voters often fails to break 20 percent. Additionally, candidates who are presumed to be less likely to officially enter the race -- such as former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and more recently Donald Trump -- are competitive with him in the polls.

Romney's entry into the race comes just one week after Mr. Obama announced the launch his official re-election campaign. Mr. Obama raised $750 million in the 2008 campaign and is expected to beat that in this election cycle, setting up a significant challenge for his Republican contenders.

With the launch of his exploratory committee, Romney can more easily tap into his own network of financial supporters to raise money in this year's second quarter (which started April 1). Late last month, Romney set the goal of raising $50 million early in the race.

While recent polls show Mr. Obama fares well in a match-up against Romney, it's clear the former governor is aware of the president's biggest vulnerability: the state of the economy. Romney's video fails to mention one of his own biggest vulnerabilities: his association with health care reform.