WASHINGTON: Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney will formally announce his campaign for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination next week in New Hampshire, a Romney aide said on Thursday.
Romney, who unsuccessfully sought the party's nomination in 2008, is regarded as the early Republican front-runner to challenge President Barack Obama in the November 2012 election.
The 64-year-old Romney tops many opinion polls against his possible Republican rivals, but he lags behind Obama, a Democrat, who is seeking a second term in office.
Romney planned to launch his campaign at a mid-day barbecue in Stratham, New Hampshire on June 2, according to the aide.
The state holds an important early contest on the road to theRepublican nomination next year.
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 promoted 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.
Romney, the best financed of the confirmed candidates, raised more than dollar 10 million in just one day last week.
A key vulnerability for Romney 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 repeal it.
A Gallup poll released on Thursday showed Romney at 17 percent with former Alaska governor Sarah Palin close behind at at 15 percent. Palin this week ignited a storm of speculation about her 2012 plans.
Michele Bachmann, a US congresswoman from Minnesota and favorite of the conservative Tea Party movement, also is considering entering the race.
Many Republicans have been unhappy about the current crop of presidential contenders. Other Republican White House hopefuls 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.