Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney officially declared his 2012 bid for the Oval Office on Thursday.

"I'm Mitt Romney. I believe in America and I'm running for the presidency of the United States of America," Romney said during a speech before a crowd of hundreds at a farm in Stratham, NH.

Romney, a former business executive whose 2008 presidential bid failed to win the GOP nomination, presented himself as a viable alternative to President Obama, who accused of extending America's recession and upping its "misery index."

"Barack Obama has failed America," Romney said before saying he would pass the next generation the keys to a more prosperous America.

"My generation will pass the torch to the next generation, not a bill," Romney said, adding he would restore state powers over dozens of government programs.

"And that begins with a complete repeal of Obamacare," Romney promised. "From my first day in office my number one job will be to see that America once again is number in job creation."

Romney finds himself competing for media attention with Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, whose bus tour was set to arrive in the Granite State some time Thursday after a stop in the former governor's home state.

A Big GOP Field
Romney is merely the first out of the gate as the GOP tries to decide who to launch into battle against incumbent US president Barack Obama.

Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman and Rep. Thaddeus McCotter were also headed to New Hampshire, which traditionally holds the first primary presidential contest in the nation.

Former New York Gov. George Pataki has released an ad in the state focusing on presidential issues. Among the others considering a run are Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, former Minnesota Gov.

Tim Pawlenty, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, businessman Herman Cain, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, Texas Rep. Ron Paul and former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson -- have all declared their interest in running to some degree.

But Romney is widely regarded as the frontrunner in the still-jelling Republican field despite misgivings in the party's conservative base about his past support of abortion rights and his state's health care program, known as Romneycare, which critics say too closely resembles President Obama's federal overhaul. Romney is nonetheless is seen as a successful businessman with a steady hand.

As the presumed frontrunner, Romney's campaign has the biggest target on its back, easily drawing the most attacks -- even from within his own party.

"In my opinion, any mandate coming from government is not a good thing. Even on a state level and even a local level, mandates coming from a governing body, it's tough for a lot of us independent Americans to accept, because we have great faith in the private sectors and our own families, and our own businessmen and women making decisions for ourselves," Palin told reporters moments before Romney's speech, offering her take on the governor's health care plan in Massachusetts. 

A Friend of Israel?
Romney was among the first GOP politicians to slam US president Barack Obama's Mideast policy, saying Obama has "thrown Israel under a bus," when he called for a settlement with the Palestinian Authority based on the "1967 lines" [the 1949 indefensible armistice lines. -ed.]

“Governor Romney believes that President Obama spends way too much time placating our enemies while undermining our friends. Israel is one of our greatest allies, and has made many concessions for peace over the years, yet the Obama administration exerts pressure on Israel to stop its settlements while putting almost no pressure on the Palestinians," his spokesman told the press immediately after Obama's Mideast policy speech.

Romney maintained the same position about pressuring Israel to negotiate during his 2008 presidential run, asking “How could you possibly have a peace conference at this stage? Who would you talk to?”

Romney has also taken a hard line on Iran's nuclear program - a key issue for Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

“As president I would not shrink from the use of military force when grave threats confront America. At the same time, when time and circumstances permit, I would indeed seek the involvement of Congress as required by law and the Constitution," Romney said during a Republican Jewish Coalition forum in 2007.

“You’re dealing with a nation that talks about genocide, that talks about Israel being a one-bomb state. It is unacceptable to the world for us to have a nuclear Iran and there’s no price of oil which would justify that outcome,” Romney said.

During his 2008 bid Romney aired commercials saying “We can and will stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.”

But expressions of support for Israel is de riguer among many American lawmakers - especially Republicans.

Sarah Palin was seen wearing a Magen David on Jerusalem Day as a "sign of solidarity" with Israel. She also wore a Magen David during her recent visit to Israel.

Romney recently toured the Mideast

Click herefor an analysis on Mitt Romney's presidential bid.