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"Mittens" to
throw hat in the ring next week

"Mittens" to
throw hat in the ring next week

Republican Mitt Romney will formally announce his candidacy for president next week in Michigan, his native state and an important early test for the GOP nomination

throw hat in the ring next week " >

Republican Mitt Romney will formally announce his candidacy for president next week in Michigan, his native state and an important early test for the GOP nomination, campaign aides said Tuesday. The one-term former Massachusetts governor and opponent of same-sex marriage will make his announcement February 13 and will then visit Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina--the first states to hold 2008 contests.

Romney will return to Boston two days later, where he will hold what his campaign is calling ''a unity event'' with supporters, aides said. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because the plans were not public. The move has been expected.

Romney, 58, created an exploratory committee in January and quickly thereafter held a major fund-raising event that netted $6.5 million in contributions and pledges to show that he was a serious contender able to challenge political celebrities John McCain and Rudy Giuliani, the other top-tier Republican candidates. Neither of them have formally announced their candidacies even though they are fully expected to.

For Romney, the initial steps were a formality. It has long been known that he aspires to the presidency. He has spent months building a national campaign organization, hiring top political talent, courting fund-raisers, and putting support networks in place in key states. His campaign recently opened its headquarters along Boston's waterfront.

In Dearborn, Mich., Romney will hold what amounts to a made-for-TV coming-out event at the Henry Ford Museum. He has long roots and a base of support in that battleground state. His father, George Romney, was governor in the 1960s and also was chief executive of the American Motors Corp. The elder Romney made an unsuccessful bid for the 1968 Republican presidential nomination.

Romney made his reputation in the Boston business community, where he helped found a multibillion-dollar venture capital firm after simultaneously earning degrees from Harvard Business and Law schools. He rose to national prominence when he successfully resurrected the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City, an event mired in a bribery scandal.

Romney ran as a political moderate in his only two previous campaigns--a successful bid for Massachusetts governor in 2002 and an unsuccessful challenge to U.S. senator Edward M. Kennedy, a liberal icon, in 1994. Now he's trying to convince the social conservatives whose support is pivotal in GOP presidential nomination contests that he shares their values.

Romney supported abortion rights until two years ago, when he says he had a change of heart during a legislative debate on stem cell research. He has also taken positions sympathetic to gay rights in the past but spent much of his term as governor vehemently opposing same-sex marriage.

Another challenge Romney faces is that he is a Mormon. No one from his religion has been elected president. (AP)

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"Mittens" to
throw hat in the ring next week

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