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The Nation

March 7, 2011

Romney, novice no more, focuses on Obama, economy

BARTLETT, N.H. — This time, Mitt Romney has a clear pitch: I'm the strongest Republican to challenge President Barack Obama on the country's single biggest issue — the economy.

"He created a deeper recession, and delayed the recovery," Romney said Saturday, previewing his campaign message before Republicans in this influential early nominating state.

"The consequence is soaring numbers of Americans enduring unemployment, foreclosures and bankruptcies. This is the Obama Misery Index, and it is at a record high."

"It's going to take more than new rhetoric to put Americans back to work — it's going to take a new president," said the former businessman and Massachusetts governor, essentially offering himself up as the best — if not only — solution.

But will GOP primary voters buy it?

Specifically, will this argument from the once-failed GOP presidential candidate be strong enough to convince conservatives who dominate the nominating contests that they should overlook their unease about him: his signing of a Massachusetts health care law similar to Obama's unpopular nationwide one, as well as his reversals on social issues and his Mormonism?

This is the central question of Romney's all-but-announced second White House bid.

An answer will come over the next year.

He's virtually certain to enter the race this spring, though campaign signs posted along the road leading to the New Hampshire hotel where he spoke this weekend may have gotten a bit ahead of him. They said "Mitt Romney for President" and suggested this theme: "True Strength for America's Future."

He and his aides insisted they were leftovers from 2008.

Never mind the other signs: Romney lapel pins in the shape of New Hampshire. They dotted the audience, and at least one adviser was overheard all but confirming to attendees that Romney was running again.

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