“Defying his reputation as a 1950s square, the new, more casual Mitt Romney is popping up around the country as he readies a second run for president. He’s going tieless on network TV, strolling NASCAR pits in Daytona and sporting skinny Gap jeans bought for him by his wife.

“His latest campaign book, just out in paperback, opens with a regular-guy scene: wealthy Mitt in a Wal-Mart checkout line, buying gifts for his grandsons and comparing the surroundings to Target, another discount store he says he’s familiar with.

“The image tweaks are part of a broader makeover as Romney prepares to run from what should be an enviable spot: He’s the early Republican favorite — though far from an inevitable nominee.”

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“When Mitt Romney returns to New Hampshire on Saturday to make his first public appearance since prior to the 2010 midterm election, he will have two key Republicans from the North Country and Lakes Region behind his likely presidential bid.

Veteran Executive Councilor Raymond Burton of Bath and state Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley of Wolfeboro told the Primary Status they will endorse the former Massachusetts governor should he run, as is expected…

“‘He can best articulate and has the background to turn around our economy because he’s a business person and understands the decisions that America is going to have to make in terms of global competitiveness better than anyone else out there,’ said Bradley.”

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“Several Republican strategists who worked on Mr. Romney’s first presidential campaign said they had urged him to try to get ahead of the controversy a year ago during the national health care debate. But they said their suggestions were overruled.

“‘He made a huge mistake not litigating his health care record when Obamacare was on the table,’ said Alex Castellanos, a Republican strategist who advised the early stages of Mr. Romney’s last race. ‘He should have been the leading opponent and said, ‘I can tell you better than anyone, don’t do this.’ But now he’s chosen to litigate this during a campaign, which is the worst time to do it.'”

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“‘I don’t see any way he can become the nominee,’ said Eddie Mahe Jr., a former deputy chairman of the Republican National Committee…

“It’s too early to predict which of the potential candidates will prove the strongest alternative to Romney. But the fragmented field suggests two possible scenarios. One is that a multitude of feuding conservatives divide the GOP base into many pieces, allowing Romney to muscle his way through the crowded field.

“But it’s more likely, Mahe suggests, that a candidate such as Pawlenty, Barbour or Daniels finds the sweet spot in the race: one step to the right of Romney but one step to the left of everyone else.

“‘If you have 12 lookalikes, the one who’s the most moderate may end up a winner,’ he said.”

***
“Living in New Hampshire, you’ve heard of our healthcare program next door in Massachusetts. You may have noticed that the President and his people spend more time talking about me and Massachusetts healthcare than Entertainment Tonight spends talking about Charlie Sheen.

“Our approach was a state plan intended to address problems that were in many ways unique to Massachusetts. What we did was what the Constitution intended for states to do—we were one of the laboratories of democracy.

“Our experiment wasn’t perfect—some things worked, some didn’t, and some things I’d change. One thing I would never do is to usurp the constitutional power of states with a one-size-fits-all federal takeover.

I would repeal Obamacare, if I were ever in a position to do so. My experience has taught me that states are where healthcare programs for the uninsured should be crafted, just as the Constitution provides. Obamacare is bad law, bad policy, and it is bad for America’s families.

“The federal government isn’t the answer for running healthcare any more than it’s the answer for running Amtrak or the Post Office. An economy run by the federal government doesn’t work for Europe and it won’t work here.”