Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney formed a presidential exploratory committee today that will allow him to raise money for a near-certain run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012.

“It is time that we put America back on a course of greatness with a growing economy, good jobs and fiscal discipline in Washington,” Romney said in a web video announcing his intentions.

In the video, Romney focuses almost exclusively on the economy, touting his experience in creating jobs and balancing budgets in the private sector.

“From my vantage point in business and in government, I have become convinced that America has been put on a dangerous course by Washington politicians, and it has become even worse during the last two years,” said Romney. “But I am also convinced that with able leadership, America’s best days are still ahead.”

Romney made no mention in the video of health care or his decision as governor to sign a law that has been unfaborably compared by some Republicans to the plan put in place by President Obama last year.

The video was shot at the University of New Hampshire, emphasizing Romney’s plan to put the Granite State at the center of his blueprint to win the GOP nomination.

Romney is the second major Republican candidate to form an exploratory committee to look at the race. Earlier this month former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty did the same. An announcement from Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour about his intentions is expected to come later this month.

Romney’s move was entirely expected. He has been preparing to run for president from almost the moment he came up short against Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) in 2008 and enters the race as its frontrunner.

An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll released last week showed Romney leading a crowded field with 21 percent but when the field was narrowed to include only those expected to run in 2012 he soared to 40 percent. (Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich took 20 percent, which was good for second place.)

Romney is also expected to set the financial pace in the race, relying on the considerable national fundraising network he built in 2008 as well as his considerable personal wealth. Romney donated $45 million of his own money to his 2008 bid.

Those close to Romney insist that while he has retained many of his senior strategists from the 2008 race for this return engagement, he has learned the right lessons from his unsuccessful bid three years ago.

Notably, the Romney announcement did not leak to the media prior to it being posted on his website — a sign of a very disciplined inner circle reminiscent of the way then-candidate Barack Obama ran his operation in 2008.

And, the tone of Romney’s announcement video — serious comes to mind — is a break from the at-times antic image Romney gave off during the last presidential race.

It’s clear that Romney will do everything he can to run as the adult in the GOP contest, avoiding some of the early political scrums in hopes of portraying himself as the sort of “big” figure who not only can take on President Obama but can step into the office ready to lead on day one.