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Mitt Romney launches presidential campaign

DEARBORN, Mich.—Mitt Romney ran away from home Tuesday to seek a new one—the White House.

The former one-term governor of Massachusetts decided not to kick off his campaign for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination in that state, which conjures images of liberal Democrats such as Democratic Sens. Ted Kennedy and John Kerry.

Instead, he flew to his childhood home of Michigan, hoping to wrap himself in the mantle of conservative Midwest values. His venue was the Henry Ford Museum, whose icons of industrial innovation he used as symbols of his private-sector background, which he said gave him can-do management skills rarely found in government and absent in his political rivals.

Romney, 59, hopes that twin-theme approach will set him apart from a long line of Massachusetts liberals—and from such likely Republican rivals as Sen. John McCain of Arizona and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who have longer resumes in public office.

"I do not believe Washington can be transformed from within by lifelong politicians," Romney said here.

"There have been too many deals, too many favors, too many entanglements and too little real-world experience managing, guiding and leading."

Romney underscored his record as a man who gets things done—successful venture capitalist, the man who rescued the scandal-plagued and debt-ridden 2002 Winter Olympics—as well as a governor who restored his state's fiscal health and expanded health care.

"I do not believe Washington can be transformed by someone . . . who has never run a corner store," he told several hundred supporters.

Romney said he staged his announcement in the vast Henry Ford Museum to underscore the country's history of innovation, particularly in the auto industry.

"If ever there were a time when innovation and transformation were needed in government, it is now," he said.

He stood before a Rambler 550 automobile designed when his father chaired the auto company that made it, calling it the first American car designed and marketed for fuel efficiency. "It transformed the industry," he said.

His father, George Romney, went on to serve as governor of Michigan in the 1960s. The company, American Motors, later was acquired by Chrysler Corp.

Mitt Romney would be the first Mormon president, a potential hurdle in a country where polls show people more ready to elect the first woman or first African-American. But so far, Romney faces skepticism among the party's influential Christian conservatives more for his stands on issues than for his faith.

He supported abortion rights in earlier Massachusetts campaigns and told gays in a 1994 campaign against Kennedy that he would advocate gay rights.

Yet as governor, he pushed to put a gay marriage ban on the state ballot, and he now says he opposes abortion rights.

"I believe in the sanctity of human life," he said Tuesday.

He also said his presidency would be guided by values that include "marriage before children" and "a mother and father in the life of every child."

"The Christian right is still looking," said conservative strategist Greg Mueller. "They are not sold or uniting behind anyone yet."

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GEORGE ROMNEY

Mitt Romney's father, George Romney, committed one of the great gaffes of modern politics. The popular governor of Michigan, the elder Romney in 1967 was a top candidate for the 1968 Republican presidential nomination

But as he angled against rivals Richard Nixon and Nelson Rockefeller, he was pressed to explain how he'd shifted from his early support of the Vietnam War to calling it a tragic mistake.

During a 1967 interview, he blamed his initial support on bad information from the Pentagon. "Well, you know, when I came back from Vietnam, I had just had the greatest brainwashing that anybody can get," he said.

The word "brainwash" made him sound gullible and became a defining issue for him. Five months later, he dropped out of the race.

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BAY STATE LEGACY

Mitt Romney kicked off his campaign in Michigan, but he's the latest in a long line of Massachusetts politicians to seek the presidency. Among them:

_Sen. John Kerry won the Democratic nomination in 2004, but lost the general election to George W. Bush.

_Sen. Paul Tsongas sought the Democratic nomination in 1992, but lost to Bill Clinton, who won the general election over George H.W. Bush.

_Gov. Michael Dukakis won the Democratic nomination in 1988, but lost the general election to Republican George H.W. Bush.

_Sen. Edward Kennedy sought the Democratic nomination in 1980, but lost to incumbent Democrat Jimmy Carter, who lost the general election to Ronald Reagan.

_Sen. John F. Kennedy won the Democratic nomination in 1960 and the general election over Republican Richard Nixon.

For more on Romney's campaign, www.mittromney.com

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(c) 2007, McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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