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More Oh-Eight (R)

Former Gov. Mitt Romney campaigns in South Carolina and New Hampshire.  Romney's optimistic announcement speech yesterday contained "50 references to 'America,'" the Financial Times notes.  "Romney referred to his faith in God and the 'sanctity of human life' but made no mention of his biggest political challenge, his Mormon religion." 

NBC's Carrie Dann notes that Romney's speech also was noticeably light on the top issue on voters' minds: In his 18-minute address, he devoted less than 90 seconds to Iraq.  Romney spoke for over 10 minutes before bringing up the war, and in his first mention of the conflict, he mistakenly said "Iran."  Counting that instance, the tally in his prepared remarks for mentions of the word "Iraq" was a mere five, while he uttered his thematic word "innovation" a whopping 10 times. 

In Des Moines, hours after his announcement in Dearborn, Romney added an interesting line to his position on the war: "I support the President in his effort to stabilize the population of Iraq."  Romney invoked Bush by name at the smaller Iowa event but not at his formal announcement because, as Romney's rival Sen. John McCain is swiftly proving, GOP candidates risk putting themselves on the political chopping block by aligning themselves with Bush's unpopular surge strategy.

"Even with the soaring language, Romney... at times struck an uncharacteristically subdued tone, especially in the beginning of his address.  The crowd also missed some applause lines, making for some awkward pauses," notes the Boston Globe.  "Despite the penchant for stagecraft, Romney's announcement lacked the vigor of some of his past campaign appearances." Per the campaign, the event drew about 800 people.

The Globe also laments that the Bay State received just two mentions in Romney's address. "And that was it.  No self-congratulations over the landmark healthcare plan he helped craft.  No boasting of how he steered the state through financial crisis in 2003.  No recounting of battle stories from his bouts against gay marriage."  

The Boston Herald reports that "[t]hree of the Bay State's five Republican senators said they plan to endorse someone other than Romney in 2008, a surprising defection given that they used to offer Romney's only ideological support on a Beacon Hill where liberal Democrats rule." 

Romney portrayed himself "as both a political outsider and an experienced executive who would bring efficiency to the White House," the Washington Post says, noting that he took a subtle jab at McCain for being unable to change Washington from the inside. 

The Chicago Tribune: "Though he didn't mention Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) or any other candidates by name, Romney also said voters should not be content with candidates who make broad appeals to voters' hopes.  'Our hopes and dreams are going to inspire us, because we are an optimistic people,' he said.  'But let me tell you, just hoping is simply crossing your fingers.  What we really need are hands that will go to work.  It's time for hope and action. It's time that we do as well as dream.'" 

Wrapping up a long weekend in California yesterday, Giuliani offered yet another statement that will make his eventual formal announcement even more anticlimactic.  Asked by reporters at the World Agricultural Expo if he's running for president, Giuliani all but rolled his eyes and laughingly replied, "Sure, I'm running...  Hard and very fast and a lot sooner than I ever thought.  But yes, I am."

The Washington Post picks up on the recently leaked, old Giuliani "'vulnerability study,' including warnings about his 'weirdness factor' and other perceived liabilities," which "surfaced from his second campaign for New York mayor, 14 years ago...  Tony Carbonetti, a senior political adviser to Giuliani, said last night that the report was not 'relevant' because of the former mayor's record of reducing crime and welfare rolls...  The 'weirdness' question involved Giuliani's first marriage, to his second cousin."