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Former Senator Rick Santorum Joins US Republican Presidential Field

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum (file photo)
Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum (file photo)
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Former U.S. senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania is the latest Republican to formally join the race for his party’s presidential nomination next year.  Santorum is an outspoken social conservative and he joins an increasingly crowded field of Republican contenders for 2012.

Rick Santorum returned to his home roots in western Pennsylvania to make the official announcement that he is in the 2012 race for president.

“I am ready to do what has to be done for the next generation, with the courage to fight for freedom, with the courage to fight for America," said Santorum. "That is why I am announcing today that I am running for president of the United States.  Join the fight!  Join the fight!”

Santorum opposes President Barack Obama’s health-care reform law as an assault on freedom.  He has also criticized the president for not being tough enough on what he calls the repressive regimes in Iran and Syria.

Santorum is 53 and served two terms in the U.S. Senate where he developed a reputation as an outspoken social conservative strongly opposed to abortion, gay marriage and embryonic stem cell research.  Santorum was defeated in his bid for a third Senate term in 2006.

Santorum hopes to appeal to social and religious conservatives within the Republican Party.  They make up a sizeable portion of Republicans who vote in the presidential nominating caucuses and primaries that will determine the party’s presidential nominee next year.

Santorum joins an increasingly crowded Republican field, but he remains at the bottom of most recent polls gauging the strength of presidential contenders.

Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney leads the field in most national polls.  He formally announced his candidacy last week.

Romney recently spoke about the economy to a conference of social and religious conservatives in Washington.

“You have people who are 55-years-old in the prime of their life, out of work, wondering if they will ever get another job," said Romney. "This is not just a crisis.  This is moral crisis that we face in this country.”

Other candidates who have formally declared they are running include former U.S. House speaker Newt Gingrich, former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty, Texas Congressman Ron Paul, Georgia businessman Herman Cain and former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson.

Two other Republicans could join the race soon - Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann and former Utah governor Jon Huntsman, who until recently served as President Obama’s ambassador to China.

In addition, former Alaska governor Sarah Palin says she continues to mull a presidential bid, but says that could go on for weeks or months.

Palin appeared on Fox News Sunday, following a bus tour last week that she says was intended to highlight U.S. patriotic sites.

“We have got to turn things around in 2012," said Palin. "Whether it is me throwing my name in the hat [deciding to run for president] or just supporting the right candidates, the response has been great confirmation of the need for real positive change in this country.”

The first nominating contests in Iowa and New Hampshire will not be held until early next year, but Republican contenders are announcing now so that they can raise money, organize their campaigns in the early contest states and take part in upcoming presidential debates this year.

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