Rick Santorum joins race for president

Former senator Rick Santorum has confirmed he is running for president, joining a crowded field of Republicans looking to challenge Barack Obama in next year's election.

Mr Santorum, the former No. 3 Republican in the US Senate and a favourite among his party's anti-abortion rights bloc, announced his candidacy on television. It had been expected for months.



"We're in it to win it," he said, appearing in front of a banner-draped setting in Somerset, Pennsylvania.



Mr Santorum used his brief TV appearance to criticise Mr Obama's foreign policy, saying among other things he believes he has gone too easy on Iran, which is suspected of trying to obtain nuclear weapons.



Other Republican contenders include former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, former House Speaker Newt, US Representative Ron Paul, and former Utah governor Jon Huntsman, who also served as US ambassador to China. Those considering a bid include Texas governor Rick Perry and Congresswoman Michele Bachmann. The party's 2008 vice presidential nominee, Sarah Palin, has not said whether she would run.



Mr Santorum, a blunt-talking conservative, lacks the name recognition and fundraising organisation of his better-known rivals. But the two-term senator's advisers are counting on social conservatives who have huge sway in some early nominating states and have yet to settle on a favourite candidate.



He had been laying the groundwork for a presidential bid when he lost a bruising re-election bid to the Senate in 2006. His opposition to abortion, gay marriage and embryonic stem cell research makes him an appealing candidate for conservatives. But his sometimes abrasive style alienated voters in Democratic-leaning Pennsylvania, and they replaced him with Bob Casey, an anti-abortion Democrat.



Mr Santorum's policy positions align with national conservatives who now are looking at many of the expected candidates with scepticism. Mr Romney's changes of heart on gay rights and abortion do little to help his second presidential effort, Mr Gingrich is twice divorced. Mr Huntsman, who worked for three Republican administrations, nonetheless accepted President Barack Obama's offer to be the US ambassador to China



Mr Santorum, 53, has his own hurdles to overcome: He has been out of elective office since 2007 and lacks the robust fundraising or personal wealth of his rivals.

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