- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Touting a reputation for competence, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney officially declared his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination yesterday while delivering speeches in Michigan and Iowa.

“I believe that homeland security begins with securing our borders,” Mr. Romney told supporters who turned out at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Mich., despite freezing weather. “I believe in the sanctity of human life.”

His biggest applause of the day came when he expressed support for President Bush and the war in Iraq, said Chuck Laudner, executive director of Iowa’s Republican Party.

“So long as there is a reasonable prospect of success, our wisest course is to seek stability in Iraq, with additional troops endeavoring to secure the civilian population,” Mr. Romney, 59, told about 300 supporters gathered indoors at the state fairgrounds in Des Moines, Iowa.

But he acknowledged a decline in respect for the United States globally in recent years.

“America must regain our standing in the world,” he said. “Our influence must once again match our generosity.”

Noting that “no nation gave more, shed more precious lives and took less for itself than America,” he said, “This is not the way it is seen by others. America’s goodness and leadership in the world must be as bright and bold as our military might.”

Mr. Romney was born in Michigan, and his father, the late George W. Romney, was governor of the state and sought the Republican presidential nomination in 1968. Michigan’s importance goes well beyond symbolism, because it aims to hold its Republican presidential primary as early as Feb. 5, state Republican Party Chairman Saul Anuzis told The Washington Times.

“Romney brought in people from around the state,” Mr. Anuzis said. “I don’t think we’ve had a candidate announce his presidential campaign in Michigan before, not even his father.”

Mr. Romney, who opted not to run for re-election as Massachusetts governor last year, is positioning himself as an outsider who can straighten out Washington.

A multimillionaire businessman, Mr. Romney won praise for taking over the dysfunctional Salt Lake Organizing Committee for the 2002 Winter Olympics and ultimately saving the Olympic Games that year.

“I do not believe Washington can be transformed from within by a lifelong politician,” Mr. Romney said yesterday. “There have been too many deals, too many favors, too many entanglements — and too little real-world experience managing, guiding, leading.”

Next year, the presidential nomination will begin with caucuses in Iowa and Nevada and primaries in New Hampshire and South Carolina.

Like his chief Republican nomination rivals, Arizona Sen. John McCain and former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, Mr. Romney has set out to win the hearts of his party’s core of conservative voters. He also seeks to become the first Mormon president in U.S. history.

A Feb. 9-11 Gallup poll of 1,006 adults found that 58 percent would be comfortable voting for a Mormon for president, 14 percent would vote for a Mormon but with reservations, and 24 percent would not vote for one.

He has his doubters among religious conservatives.

“When exactly did Romney become a conservative?” said Don Feder, a Boston-based political consultant and former Boston Herald columnist. “He certainly wasn’t one as recently as 2002. When he ran for governor, he was adamantly pro-choice.”

He plans to continue his announcement tour this week in New Hampshire and South Carolina and then return to Boston for a fundraiser.

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