BOSTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama may have three years to go before the next presidential election, but Mitt Romney has regrouped after his failed 2008 White House run and is already setting himself up for the 2012 Republican nomination.
The multimillionaire former governor of Massachusetts this week kicks off a book tour and media blitz to promote “No Apology: The Case for American Greatness.” The book reads like a campaign manifesto, with chapters on reforming healthcare, entitlement programs and education, and ruminating on the value of free markets and citizenship.
At the Conservative Political Action Committee conference in Washington on February 18, Romney denounced the year-old Obama administration as a “failure” with an attack on its handling of healthcare, national security, taxes and the economy.
Obama “has prolonged the recession, expanded the pain of unemployment and added to the burden of debt we will leave future generations,” he said at CPAC.
Said Tufts University political science professor Jeffrey Berry said: “Romney never stopped running. He was already plotting his comeback when he conceded to John McCain in 2008.”
In January, a National Journal poll of political insiders found a majority of Republican insiders predicted that Romney would become the party’s 2012 nominee. And the nonpartisan Public Policy Polling group shows Romney as the early preference among Republican voters in Texas and New Mexico.
The upcoming book tour takes Romney to 19 states and the District of Columbia and has all the earmarks of a campaign swing. Romney, 62, will appear on David Letterman’s “Late Show” on CBS on Tuesday, going head-to-head with former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin on NBC’s “The Tonight Show.”
He will also appear on NBC’s “Today Show,” ABC’s “The View” and Fox’s “Sean Hannity Show”. On Friday he gives a speech at the National Press Club in Washington.
The 323-page book ends with 64 policy ideas, from promoting small business and entrepreneurship with lower taxes and controls on unions, to appointing judges that follow the Constitution rather than reinterpret it.
It is essential that the United States does not become the “France of the 21st Century — still a great country but no longer the world’s leading nation” — writes Romney, who rapped Obama’s record of apologizing to “so many foreign audiences ... for so many American misdeeds, both real and imagined.”
“I am one of those who believe America is destined to remain as it has been since the birth of the republic — the brightest hope in the world,” Romney writes.
In the book’s first chapter, Romney blasts the social complacency of the Clinton years before turning to his worries to the huge budget deficits proposed by Obama’s White House.
Romney is likely to brush off the suggestion that he is leading the 2012 Republican field.
Tobe Berkovitz, professor of communication at Boston University, said: “If I (were) a candidate at this point, I would not want to be the front-runner. In two years there’s nowhere to go but down.”
But Romney will benefit from having run before, Berkovitz said. “Many times the second time is the charm, and he’s been working very hard to stay in touch with the party’s base.”
Palin, a former Alaska Governor, and Romney are some of the best known potential Republican candidates for 2012. Others include Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, Senator John Thune of South Dakota, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee.
Pundits see the battle for the Republican nomination likely to be between a moderate, business-oriented candidate, such as Romney, and one who better represents the party’s religious wing and the evolving Tea Party movement, which opposes big government and taxes.
After “conspicuous and somewhat embarrassing efforts” to identify as a social conservative in 2008, Romney’s strategy will be “to use the difficult American economy as a means of highlighting his expertise in business,” said Berry.
Romney has been a controversial figure in national politics, in part because of his Mormon faith — he would be the first Mormon president if elected — and in part because of his personal fortune, estimated at more than $200 million.
The son of George Romney, an automotive executive who served three terms as Michigan’s governor and ran for president in 1968, Romney built his wealth at the Boston-based buyout firm Bain Capital, and spent tens of millions of dollars of his own money to finance the 2008 campaign.
Editing by Mark Egan and Philip Barbara