WASHINGTON Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney will formally announce his campaign for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination next week, a Romney aide said on Thursday.
Romney, who unsuccessfully sought the party's nomination in 2008, is regarded as the early Republican frontruner to challenge President Barack Obama in the 2012 election. Romney tops many polls against his possible Republican rivals.
But he lags behind Obama, a Democrat who is running for a second term in office.
Romney planned to launch his campaign in Stratham, New Hampshire on June 2, the aide said. The state is an important early contest in the road to the Republican nomination.
Romney criticized Obama's handling of the economy during a visit to Chicago on Thursday.
"I know we are only a couple blocks away from President Obama's re-election headquarters," Romney said. "The President is a fine fellow but he just doesn't have the experience in the private sector to know what it takes to get America creating jobs again," he said.
Romney has pushed his business experience, but critics complain about his record as a corporate raider for a private equity firm in the 1980s. They also say his performance on employment was mixed at best as Massachusetts governor.
Other Republican candidates include former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty and Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the House of Representatives.
Romney stepped in to rescue the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. He was tapped as president and CEO of the organizing committee in 1999 after the games were tarred by bribery allegations by top officials and were far behind revenue benchmarks.
He brought in a new management team, cut budgets and boosted fund-raising. By most measures those Olympics were regarded as a success.
Romney's Achilles' heel could be the healthcare plan that he helped develop for Massachusetts. The state plan resembles Obama's sweeping 2010 healthcare overhaul that was opposed by Republicans who have vowed to scrap it.
(Reporting by JoAnne Allen in Washington and Eric Johnson in Chicago; Editing by Paul Simao)
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