RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
For almost a decade, our correspondent Don Gonyea brought you news from the White House. First, he followed President Bush, then President Obama. Now, Don is moving further afield. He is a national political correspondent for NPR. And this morning, he tracks one of the people who may hope to occupy the White House next. Mitt Romney fell short in the Republican presidential primaries of 2008. He seems set to try again in 2012. Today, he releases a book called "No Apology: The Case for American Greatness." Don Gonyea has more.
DON GONYEA: This is how Mitt Romney's first presidential run came to an end. It was February '08 at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, known as CPAC. Romney had bounced back a bit after crucial early losses in Iowa and New Hampshire the month before, but he could see he was done.
Mr. MITT ROMNEY (Former Republican Governor, Massachusetts; Former Republican Presidential Candidate; Author): I entered this race because I love America. And because I love America, in this time of war, I feel I have to now stand aside for our party and for our country.
(Soundbite of booing)
GONYEA: It was a difficult day for a man accustomed to success, but Romney wasn't ready to regard the setback as permanent. Since then, he spent two years helping raise money for Republican candidates around the country. Hes making friends and collecting favors, and this February he was back at CPAC - this time having more fun. He said he just got back from the Olympics.
Mr. ROMNEY: By the way, you probably didnt hear the news this morning, late breaking, that the gold medal that was won last night by American Lindsey Vonn has been stripped. Yeah, it was determined that President Obama has been going downhill faster than she has.
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GONYEA: The joke was followed by a broad critique of the administration
Mr. ROMNEY: And so when he assumed the presidency, his energy should have been focused on fixing the economy, creating jobs, succeeding in our fight against radical violent jihad in Afghanistan and Iraq, and keeping us safe. Instead, he applied his time and his political capital to his ill-conceived takeover of health care and to building his personal popularity in foreign countries. He failed to focus - and so he failed.
GONYEA: Now comes the book - the line "No Apology" in the title echoes a common critique of President Obama by Republicans, that hes been too willing to apologize around the world for American actions. Elsewhere in the book, Romney lays out a vision for U.S. economic and foreign policy. It argues that the current path is one toward weakness and decline.
As for the book tour, Romney will be all over network and cable TV today, ending with a stop at the "David Letterman Show" tonight. So far the travels schedule includes 42 stops in 19 states. Erick Erickson publishes the blog Redstate.com.
Mr. ERICK ERICKSON (Managing Editor, Redstate.com): You look where hes going on this book tour, and he has surrounded himself with the same guys he had in 2008. Hes definitely in for president.
GONYEA: Romneys 08 campaign had trouble with conservatives, particularly Evangelicals, who had doubts about his Mormonism and about his switch from pro-choice Massachusetts governor to pro-life presidential candidate. Some analysts wondered why he didnt simply run on his resume as a highly successful businessman and executive. Now with polls showing the struggling economy and weak jobs picture to be the dominant issue for Americans, Redstate.coms Erickson says Romney has an opportunity while on this book tour.
Mr. ERICKSON: He needs to set himself up as the fixer, as the guy who knows whats wrong with the economy and can fix it.
GONYEA: But a big book tour also risks comparison to others on the same well-trodden path, including one whose book came out in November.
(Soundbite of TV newscast)
Unidentified Woman: Our cameras rolling as former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin arrived in West Michigan, taking the first steps of a whirlwind national book tour that is garnering the national eye tonight.
GONYEA: Thats local TV coverage in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Kevin Madden the GOP strategist who worked for Romney in 08 is quick to head off comparisons to Palins massive crowds.
Mr. KEVIN MADDEN (GOP Strategist): This is not about building crowds. Instead, its about going out and meeting people and sharing his ideas and his vision for the country with as many people as possible. And rather than being a - an event, it is a process of engaging on many of these ideas and issues.
GONYEA: The Republican Party is searching for a new standard bearer as polls show it on track to make big gains in this years mid-term elections. Mitt Romney wants to make sure his name is more than just part of that discussion.
Don Gonyea, NPR News, Washington.