Ex-Senator Santorum Announces Republican Presidential Bid

Former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, whose political career was derailed in 2006 when he lost a re-election bid, today officially entered the race for next year’s Republican presidential nomination.

“People have understood that something is wrong,” said Santorum, 53, in his home area of Somerset County, Pennsylvania. President Barack Obama is “devaluing our dollar and he’s devaluing our other currency, our moral currency,” he said.

“If you’re going to sum up the mission of America, it’s to make sure each and every person is free,” Santorum said.

Santorum already has been raising money for a White House run through an exploratory committee he established earlier this year. He told ABC News earlier today that he would run.

He criticized the 2010 health-care plan that Obama shepherded into law, which requires all Americans to get insurance or pay a penalty, and bars insurers from rejecting customers with pre-existing medical conditions.

Santorum said the legislation would take away Americans’ freedom by making them more dependent on government.

“They want to hook you,” Santorum said. “They don’t want to free you.”

Medicare Issue

He also praised the House Republican legislation to eliminate traditional Medicare and instead give subsidies to senior citizens to buy private insurance.

Santorum was one of the most outspoken opponents of abortion rights while serving first in the U.S. House and then two terms in the Senate. He is looking to attract the support of social conservatives, who fueled former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee’s victory in the Iowa caucuses in the 2008 Republican race.

Such voters also make up a key bloc in South Carolina, another early contest in the nomination quest. Huckabee announced May 14 he had decided against another presidential run.

“Obviously, Governor Huckabee and I share a lot on the fact that we are strong conservatives on the moral, cultural issues, and not just strong, but we’ve led on them,” Santorum said May 16 on the Fox Business Network. “We’re not afraid to talk about them. We’re not afraid to integrate them into the discussion, which I think a lot of social conservatives want to see and hear.”

Other Candidates

Santorum joins former House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia, Representative Ron Paul of Texas and former Governors Mitt Romney of Massachusetts and Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota as announced candidates for the nomination to take on Obama.

Other potential Republican candidates include former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, the party’s 2008 vice presidential nominee; Jon Huntsman Jr., a former U.S. ambassador to China and ex-governor of Utah; and Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, a favorite of the Tea Party movement.

Herman Cain, the former chief executive officer of Godfather’s Pizza Inc., and former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson also have declared their candidacies.

Polls of Republican-leaning voters have shown Santorum in the low single digits in the large field of presidential prospects.

Senate Defeat

First elected to the House in 1990, he won his Senate seat in 1994. He was defeated in his 2006 bid for a third term by Democrat Bob Casey, 59 percent to 41 percent.

Santorum recently attracted attention when he challenged Arizona Senator John McCain, the 2008 Republican presidential nominee, over the issue of torturing enemy combatants, which McCain opposes.

Santorum said that “enhanced interrogation” techniques that include methods generally considered torture enabled U.S. troops to get the information they needed to find and kill terrorist leader Osama bin Laden.

McCain “doesn’t understand how enhanced interrogation works,” Santorum said in a May 17 interview on the Hugh Hewitt radio show. “I mean, you break somebody, and after they’re broken, they become cooperative.”

McCain, a Navy fighter pilot captured during the Vietnam War, was tortured during his several years in prison.

“Under torture, a person will say anything he thinks his captors want to hear -- true or false -- if he believes it will relieve his suffering,” McCain wrote in a May 11 Washington Post opinion piece.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jonathan D. Salant in Washington at jsalant@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva at msilva34@bloomberg.net.

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