Mitt Romney formally announced his presidential candidacy in New Hampshire Thursday against a backdrop of hay bales and white barns and flags and all kinds of other iconic American summer stuff. Romney promised to offer a "better tomorrow" for the country and to take America in a different direction than President Obama. He slammed Obama's "disastrous national health care plan," which was based on the Massachusetts plan Romney signed into law in 2006, as a federal takeover. "This president's first answer to every problem is to take from you," Romney said. His Romneycare, by contrast, was "a state solution to a state problem."

The former Massachusetts governor talked about his father's working class roots, which he rose from to become head of General Motors and later governor of Michigan. "My No. 1 job will to see that America is No. 1 in job creation," he said. New Hampshire is critical for Romney to win, because he has a record of being less conservative on social issues, which are important to voters in the Iowa caucuses. The Granite State is "in his heart," Romney supporter and GOP strategist Ron Kaufman told the Union Leader's John DiStaso. "His favorite place in the world is to be on the lake in Wolfeboro"--where Romney has a second house--"with his family."

The New Republic's Jonathan Cohn says the site of Romney's announcement--and the theme of his speech--is telling. Cohn wishes Romney would do more to emulate his father, who was "a genuinely moderate Republican who governed well." He continues,

"George Romney relished fights with the party’s extremist wing, picking fights with the John Birchers and famously challenging Barry Goldwater for the 1964 Republican nomination. Almost 50 years later, Mitt is pandering to the modern party’s extremists at every opportunity. You’ll notice he’s announcing his candidacy in New Hampshire this time. When he ran in 2008, he announced in Michigan. In every possible way, he’s running away from his father’s legacy. It doesn’t speak well of his character."

The National Review's Jim Geraghty tries to explain why Romney leads the polls despite conservative voters' discomfort with his health care track record: basically, Romney hasn't screwed up.

"He seems a 'safe' choice in more ways than one. To be a candidate in a presidential campaign must be a surreal experience. At first you’re begging for attention, and then, with any luck, you're suddenly subject to more attention than you can handle. Almost from the moment you awaken to the moment you go to sleep, you’re talking, talking, talking, almost always into a microphone or phone, and every word is being scrutinized. ...

Romney has done it before, and while he must find the results of his 2008 bid inevitably disappointing, he emerged more or less unscathed. There were no huge gaffes, no meltdowns, no screams of “YEAARRGH!” after losing Iowa."