Santorum announces presidential exploratory effort

Rick Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator who was suspended from a paid gig with Fox News Channel in March, returned to the network Wednesday night to announce that he was forming an exploratory committee to run for president.

Santorum has been as active as any of the likely Republican contenders in the early nominating states. Last week he made his 14th trip to South Carolina, which hosts the first southern primary state, and on Friday returns Thursday to New Hampshire for the 14th time, courting voters in the first-in-the-nation primary state on a three-day visit.

He said his message is connecting, and now he wants to see if he can raise the resources necessary to launch a full-blown campaign.

Santorum is seeking a political comeback after he was soundly defeated in his bid for a third Senate term in 2006, losing to Democrat Bob Casey, Jr.

"2006 is not like 2010 or 2012," Santorum told Greta Van Susteren. "In 2008, I think the American people wanted a president who they could believe in. And I think after two years of that, what they've realized is that America needs a president that believes in them."

Santorum joins Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty in the active presidential field for the GOP. Newt Gingrich is also raising funds in a testing-the-waters effort. President Obama is kicking off his re-election effort in Chicago on Thursday.

michael.memoli@latimes.com

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