Romney announces run for presidency

Ex-GOP governor of Mass. says he's innovative outsider

February 14, 2007|By Rick Pearson | Rick Pearson,CHICAGO TRIBUNE

DES MOINES, Iowa -- Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney formally joined the race for the Republican presidential nomination yesterday, saying he had the innovative skills of an outsider whose conservatism would lead the nation past the "talk and dithering" that preoccupies Washington.

"If there ever was a time when innovation and transformation were needed in government, it's now," Romney said in arriving in the nation's first caucus state after launching his candidacy earlier in the day in his native Michigan.

But as Romney attempts to cast himself as an outsider not beholden to the ways of Washington, he also finds his candidacy questioned by some on the Republican right who ask whether he has become a recent convert to conservatism on social issues such as abortion and gay rights after previously holding more moderate positions.

Romney's religious faith, Mormonism, also might prove to be an issue for some voters, according to a new survey on religion, race and gender issues.

Romney, 59, has worked to promote a resume of a successful businessman who gained entry onto the national stage by turning around a scandal- and debt-ridden 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics.

In entering the presidential contest, Romney sought to differentiate himself from potential rivals such as Sen. John McCain, an Arizona Republican, who hold much longer political pedigrees than his one-term tenure as governor.

"I don't believe Washington can get transformed by someone from the inside, by someone who has been part of politics throughout their entire life, who's made all the deals," Romney said. "To have government change and transform, to have innovation come into government, you've got to have somebody who spent their lifetime innovating and transforming."

Though he didn't mention other candidates by name, Romney said voters should not be content with those who make broad appeals to voters' hopes.

"Our hopes and dreams are going to inspire us, because we are an optimistic people," he said. "But let me tell you, just hoping is simply crossing your fingers. What we really need are hands that will go to work. It's time for hope and action. It's time that we do as well as dream."

Citing international competition in technology, dependence upon foreign oil, disappointment in education and a failing health system, Romney said: "This is not a time for more talk and dithering in Washington. This is a time for action."

Romney expressed support for President Bush's move to increase troop strength in Iraq. He said a pullout would lead to civil war and create a danger that could lead to the need for a U.S. troop return that could cost even more lives.

But conservative critics say Romney's present opposition to abortion and gay rights represent a sharp about-face from positions he adopted in an unsuccessful 1994 bid for the U.S. Senate against Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, a Massachusetts Democrat, and from his 2002 run to be governor of a traditionally liberal Democratic state.

Romney also might need to discuss his Mormon faith more directly. A new USA Today/Gallup Poll found that 72 percent of likely voters say they would vote for a qualified nominee who is Mormon, compared with 94 percent for a black nominee and 88 percent for a female nominee.

Rick Pearson writes for the Chicago Tribune.

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