LAS VEGAS — In his first presidential run in 2008, Mitt Romney sought back-to-back victories in Iowa and New Hampshire to propel him to the GOP nomination. He won neither, the two-state sprint failed and so did his candidacy.
This time his strategy is more of a multi-state marathon, with economically suffering Nevada an important round in what advisers predict could be a protracted fight to be the party's 2012 nominee.
On his first trip this year to Nevada, the former Massachusetts governor toured a neighborhood north of Las Vegas Friday that has been very hard hit by foreclosures and talked throughout his trip of economic worries that top voters' lists of concerns.
"Seeing somebody learn on the job in the presidency has not been a pretty sight," Romney said Saturday to the Republican Jewish Coalition in a speech casting himself as a seasoned business executive.
He also challenged President Barack Obama's foreign policy record and received a standing ovation.
"I think the president's inexperience in negotiations contributed to less than positive developments on the Israeli-Palestinian negotiating front," Romney said.
Nevada is third in line to vote on the 2012 Republican primary calendar.
It has the highest U.S. unemployment rate, at 13.6 percent in February, and that gives Romney a chance to hone his central campaign theme: Obama's policies are hampering the economic recovery and he's the best Republican on that issue.
"His domestic policies have cost us jobs and I've met the men and women who could be working but are not working," Romney said to applause. "It's causing the breakup of families, it causes people to lose their faith, it causes kids to not go to college. I will take him on, head on, and aggressively."