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Politics

Rick Santorum Launches Presidential Exploratory Bid

April 13, 2011 - 6:00pm

Former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania announced late on Wednesday the launch of an exploratory committee for the Republican presidential nomination.

During an appearance on Fox News, Santorum took aim at President Barack Obama and attempted to offer a contrast between himself and the president.

"In 2008 Americans wanted a president they could believe in, but after two years they realized that what they needed is a president who believes in them," said Santorum."It's time for America to be America again -- an America that rewards innovation and hard work, that stands by our allies instead of our enemies, that protects even the most vulnerable of our society, and an America that says every life is to be cherished.That is what I believe in, and that's why I'm taking this next step in a possible run for president."

First elected to the Senate in 1994, Santorum served two terms before losing to Democratic candidate Bob Casey Jr. in 2006. During his two terms, Santorum amassed one of the most conservative voting records in the Senate on social issues, leading the fight against abortion and supporting the teaching of the intelligent design theory of human creation. Santorum also supported the Iraq war and opposed efforts to expand same-sex marriage.

Since losing to Casey back in 2006, Santorum has remained active from his perch at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, a think tank with ties to many conservative Catholic intellectuals and policymakers. Santorum has also been one of the most visible of the possible Republican candidates in some of the early states, having paid almost 40 visits to Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. The former senator set up the Americas Foundation PAC to help his efforts in those early states and has already started hiring staff.

There is some evidence that Santorums efforts are starting to pay off, though he lags far behind in most polls. So far in April, Santorum has won two straw polls, winning one sponsored by the Greenville County GOP in South Carolina and the Pacific Homeschool Super Conference straw poll in California which was backedby the Christian Home Educators Association of California and the Home School Legal Defense Association.

"I am gratified by the support we received among the homeschooling community, said Santorum, who has been active with his wife Karen in home schooling theirseven surviving children. Karen Santorum penned an account of the life and passing of their son Gabriel. Ensuring our children have access to a quality education is paramount, and I stand with these home schooling families in affirming that commitment.

Santorums record won the applause of the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), which has more than 85,000 supporters across the nation.

"It is easy to see why Rick Santorum, himself a home school father, registered a strong win, noted the HSLDA in its statement on the straw poll results. In his speech he pointed to his time in the Senate where he championed family issues including the right to life. He told the audience it was America that changed the world, and because of the freedom established by the Founding Fathers the world has changed."

Still, despite this recent momentum and visibility in the pivotal early battlegrounds, Santorum has work to do to catch up to the national front-runners. Former Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia, former Gov. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota, former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer, activist Fred Karger and businessman Herman Cain have all either announced their bids or have launched exploratory committees. Other possible candidates include U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi, former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton, Gov. Mitch Daniels of Indiana, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, former Alabama state Chief Justice Roy Moore, former Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska, former Gov. George Pataki of New York, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, former Gov. Bob Riley of Alabama, and businessman Donald Trump.

Reach Kevin Derby at k derby@sunshinestatenews.com or at (850) 727-0859.

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