Mitt Romney, the early front-runner in the Republican fight to beat US President Barack Obama in 2012, declared the president had "failed America" by mishandling the economy as he launched his campaign for the White House.
The former Massachusetts governor said that by choosing Mr Obama in 2008 voters "gave someone new a chance to lead, someone who didn't have much of a record but promised to lead us to a better place". But, he added: "Now, in the third year of his four-year term, we have more than promises and slogans to go by. Barack Obama has failed America."
Mr Romney, a Boston venture capitalist before entering politics, made it clear that the struggling economy would be the focus of his campaign.
The president, he said, had "had his chance" and had "made the recession worse and last longer".
"Government under Mr Obama has grown to consume almost 40pc of our economy," said Mr Romney, who was a leading Republican contender in 2008.
Promising to balance the budget, he added: "My generation will pass the torch to the next generation, not a bill."
But he is already in the cross hairs of potential rivals. Sarah Palin, a former Republican vice-presidential candidate, said Mr Romney had a track record of failing basic constitutional principles and had betrayed Republicans by introducing health care for the poor while Massachusetts governor.
Mrs Palin has not thrown her hat in the ring but has been the focus of media attention this week with a "One Nation" bus tour. She was due to arrive in New Hampshire today in what was seen as an attempt to upstage Mr Romney.
The president's re-election team meanwhile threw down the gauntlet to Republicans, revealing that Mr Obama's fund-raising target for the campaign was $750m (€517.7m). The combined cost of the 2012 White House bids has been forecast to easily break the $1bn (€690m) mark for the first time. (© Daily Telegraph, London)