Romney opens presidential bid with pledge to balance budget

Mitt Romney, the wealthy financial tycoon, ex-governor and failed presidential runner, stood in a New Hampshire hay field yesterday and announced that he is going to shoot for the White House one more time.

Serving burgers and chilli, a beaming Mr Romney, 64, launched his 2012 campaign with a message focused on jobs and wallets: the US economy is failing, it is the fault of incumbent Barack Obama and he alone among Republican hopefuls is qualified to fix it.

"Barack Obama has failed America," Mr Romney told cheering supporters, pledging as a first priority to cut government spending and repeal the healthcare reforms introduced by the sitting President. "It breaks my heart to see what's happening to this great country," he said, cataloguing the country's obstinate problems of unemployment, spiralling budget deficits and home foreclosures.

"I will cap federal spending at 20 per cent or less of the GDP and finally, finally balance the budget," he said. "My generation will pass the torch to the next generation, not a bill." Mr Romney touted his economic savvy boasting that as chief executive of Massachusetts he "balanced the budget without raising taxes". His 20 per cent GDP pledge, however, will appeal to the Tea Party but draw guffaws from most mainstream economists.

It was an orthodox campaign launch by a candidate who for months has been in pole position of the Republican field. Mr Romney has lavished attention on New Hampshire which will hold the first primary election early next year. The rest of the field remains fluid. Those with hats in the ring already include Tim Pawlenty, an ex-governor of Minnesota, and Newt Gingrich, a former house speaker. Hovering at the edges are Sarah Palin and Rudy Giuliani.

The muddle in the race has given Mr Romney time to build up his army of supporters. Also benefiting from this protracted process is Mr Obama, who kicked off his re-election bid weeks ago and is furlongs ahead in terms of organising and fund-raising.

That does not mean that the right Republican could not beat him in 2012. No president since Franklin Roosevelt has won re-election when the unemployment rate has been above 7.2 per cent. In November 2012 it will almost certainly be higher than that.

Likely drags on Mr Romney will include questions from the conservative wing of the party about his record of passing a universal healthcare law for Massachusetts that is strikingly similar to the Obama health overhaul.

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