Dearborn, Mich. Mitt Romney, a lesser-known Republican in a jam-packed presidential field, embarked on his White House bid Tuesday while casting himself as a political outsider with the managerial skills necessary to fix a flawed Washington.
"We have lost faith in government," Romney said in his native state as he formally entered the 2008 race. "It is time for innovation and transformation in Washington. It is what our country needs. It is what our people deserve."
His political resume thin - he served just one term as Massachusetts governor - Romney sought to turn that potential weakness into a strength, portraying himself as the best candidate to meet the country's challenges given his venture capitalist background and proven leadership in the public, private and volunteer sectors.
In doing so, he attempted to draw a stark distinction between his qualifications and those of his top Republican rival, four-term Sen. John McCain of Arizona, who is widely considered the GOP candidate to beat after losing to President Bush in 2000. The senator, for his part, is planning to formally announce his candidacy sometime next month.
"I don't believe Washington can be transformed from within by lifetime politicians," Romney said, an obvious swipe at McCain without mentioning his name. "There have been too many deals, too many favors, too many entanglements - and too little real-world experience managing, guiding, leading.
"I don't believe Washington can be transformed by someone who has never tried doing such a thing before, in any setting, by someone who has never run a corner store, let alone the largest enterprise in the world," said Romney, who added: "Talk is easy, talk is cheap. It is the doing that's hard."
Although he is not well-known nationally and hardly registers in public opinion polls, Romney, 59, is considered a serious candidate in the same tier as McCain and former two-term New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani. Both political celebrities rank at the top of most polls. All three are expected to be able to raise the millions needed for a strong bid.
Yet, all three also have taken positions that don't necessarily sit well with the GOP's conservative base that is pivotal in deciding the outcome of the Republican primaries. Romney also faces doubts among some religious conservatives because if elected, he would be the first Mormon president.
In 2002, he triumphantly turned the scandal-plagued Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City into a success.