Paul Ryan eats dems for breakfast bumper sticker
On April 11, 2011, Romney announced in a video taped outdoors at the University of New Hampshire that he had formed an exploratory committee for a run for the Republican presidential nomination. A Quinnipiac University political science professor stated, "We all knew that he was going to run. He's really been running for president ever since the day after the 2008 election." Romney stood to gain from the Republican electorate's tendency to nominate candidates who had previously run for president and appeared to be "next in line" to be chosen. The early stages of the race found him as the apparent front-runner in a weak field, especially in terms of fundraising prowess and organization. Perhaps his greatest hurdle in gaining the Republican nomination was party opposition to the Massachusetts health care reform law that he had shepherded five years earlier. As many potential Republican candidates decided not to run (including Mike Pence, John Thune, Haley Barbour, Mike Huckabee, and Mitch Daniels), Republican party figures searched for plausible alternatives to Romney. On June 2, 2011, Romney formally announced the start of his campaign. Speaking on a farm in Stratham, New Hampshire, he focused on the economy and criticized President Obama's handling of it. He said, "In the campaign to come, the American ideals of economic freedom and opportunity need a clear and unapologetic defense, and I intend to make it – because I have lived it." Mitt Romney sitting outdoors during daytime, with crowd behind him holding up blue and white "Romney" signs Giving an interview at a supporters rally in Paradise Valley, Arizona Romney raised $56 million during 2011, far more than any of his Republican opponents, and refrained from spending any of his own money on his campaign. He initially ran a low-key, low-profile campaign. Michele Bachmann staged a brief surge in polls, then by September 2011, Romney's chief rival in polls was a recent entrant, Texas Governor Rick Perry. Perry and Romney exchanged sharp criticisms of each other during a series of debates among the Republican candidates. The October 2011 decisions of Chris Christie and Sarah Palin not to run finally settled the field. Perry faded after poor performances in those debates, while Herman Cain's long-shot bid gained popularity until allegations of misconduct derailed him. Romney continued to seek support from a wary Republican electorate; at this point in the race, his poll numbers were relatively flat and at a historically low level for a Republican frontrunner. After the charges of flip-flopping that marked his 2008 campaign began to accumulate again, Romney declared in November 2011 that "I've been as consistent as human beings can be." As governor, he had maintained that his positions were moderate, and he had called reports that he was shifting to the right to attract conservative votes a media distortion. By the 2012 campaign he would tell the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) that he had been a "severely conservative governor." In the final month before voting began, Newt Gingrich enjoyed a major surge, taking a solid lead in national polls and in most of the early caucus and primary states, before settling back into parity or worse with Romney following a barrage of negative ads from Restore Our Future, a pro-Romney Super PAC. In the initial 2012 Iowa caucuses of January 3, Romney was announced as the victor on election night with 25 percent of the vote, edging out a late-gaining Rick Santorum by eight votes (with an also-strong Ron Paul finishing third), but sixteen days later, Santorum was certified as the winner by a 34-vote margin. Romney decidedly won the New Hampshire primary the following week with a total of 39 percent; Paul finished second and Jon Huntsman third. In the run-up to the South Carolina Republican primary, Gingrich launched ads criticizing Romney for causing job losses while at Bain Capital, Perry referred to Romney's role there as "vulture capitalism", and Sarah Palin questioned whether Romney could prove his claim that 100,000 jobs were created during that time. Many conservatives rallied in defense of Romney, rejecting what they inferred as criticism of free-market capitalism. During two debates, Romney fumbled questions about releasing his income tax returns, while Gingrich gained support with audience-rousing attacks on the debate moderators. Romney's double-digit lead in state polls evaporated and he lost to Gingrich by 13 points in the January 21 primary. Combined with the delayed loss in Iowa, Romney's admitted bad week represented a lost chance to end the race early, and he decided to release two years of his tax returns quickly. The race turned to the Florida Republican primary, where in debates, appearances, and advertisements, Romney unleashed a concerted, unrelenting attack on Gingrich's past record and associations and current electability. Romney enjoyed a big spending advantage from both his campaign and his aligned Super PAC, and after a record-breaking rate of negative ads from both sides, Romney won Florida on January 31, gaining 46 percent of the vote to Gingrich's 32 percent. Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan seen in medium distance on an outdoor stage, with large crowd around them With running mate Paul Ryan in Norfolk, Virginia, during the vice presidential selection announcement on August 11, 2012 There were several caucuses and primaries during February, and Santorum won three in a single night early in the month, propelling him into the lead in national and some state polls and positioning him as Romney's main rival. Romney won the other five, including a closely fought contest in his home state of Michigan at the end of the month. In the Super Tuesday primaries and caucuses of March 6, Romney won six of ten contests, including a narrow victory in Ohio over a greatly outspent Santorum, and although he failed to win decisively enough to end the race, still held a more than two-to-one edge over Santorum in delegates. Romney maintained his delegate margin through subsequent contests, and Santorum suspended his campaign on April 10. Following a sweep of five more contests on April 24, the Republican National Committee put its resources behind Romney as the party's presumptive nominee. Romney clinched a majority of the delegates with a win in the Texas primary on May 29. Polls have shown a generally tight race for the November general election. The campaign has been dominated by negative ads from both sides, with Obama ads proclaiming that Romney shipped jobs overseas while at Bain Capital and has kept his own money in offshore tax havens and Swiss bank accounts. A related issue has been whether Romney was responsible for actions at Bain Capital after taking the Olympics post. Romney has faced demands from Democrats to release additional years of his tax returns, an action a number of Republicans also think would be wise, but has been adamant that he will not. Romney has also largely shied away from discussing his Mormon faith on the 2012 campaign trail. Political theorists have noted that were he to highlight his religion, he could run the risk of alienating voters; as a June 2012 Gallup poll found that 18 percent of Americans would not vote for a Mormon for U.S. President, and more than 40 percent of Americans were still unaware that Romney was even a Mormon. In July 2012, Romney undertook a trip to the United Kingdom, Israel, and Poland to meet leaders to raise his credibility as a world statesman. Comments Romney made about the readiness of the 2012 Summer Olympics were perceived as undiplomatic by the British press and leading British politicians. In Israel, Romney was embraced by Israeli Prime Minister (and former BCG colleague) Benjamin Netanyahu, though he was criticized by some Palestinians for suggesting that Israel's greater economic success was due to "culture". On August 11, 2012, the Romney campaign announced the selection of Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin as his vice-presidential running mate. On August 28, 2012, the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida, officially nominated Romney as their candidate for the presidency.