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Santorum Announces Presidential Exploratory Committee

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"I’m taking this next step in a possible run for president."

Social conservative and former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum announced on Fox News tonight that he's launching a presidential exploratory committee for 2012.

USA Today reports:

WASHINGTON — Former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum announced Wednesday night that he will explore a run for the Republican presidential nomination, making him the second GOP contender in as many days to make his intentions official.

“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,” he said. “That is what I believe in, and that’s why I’m taking this next step in a possible run for president.”

Santorum announced the formation of the Rick Santorum Exploratory Committee on Fox News Channel, where he was a contributor before he began signaling he may launch a presidential bid earlier this year.

The cable network suspended Santorum and former House speaker Newt Gingrich for 60 days stipulating their contracts would be terminated on May 1 unless they notify Fox they would not run for president.

The announcement does not come as a surprise. Santorum has spent the past few months visiting early primary states and has committed to several GOP primary debates, including one in South Carolina on May 5.

Santorum, a favorite of social conservatives, is a staunch opponent of abortion rights and stem-cell research. He served in the U.S. Senate from 1995-2007, and was defeated for a third term by Democrat Bob Casey.

Well, one thing is for sure: Santorum is not getting former GOP Senator Alan Simpson's vote. As The Blaze reported earlier this week, Simpson blasted Santorum on Chris Matthews' Hardball for having said “some cruel, cruel things about homosexuals…foul.” Whether that's true or not, Santorum is definitely going to be pegged as the social-conservative-in-residence during the primaries, if he decides to run.

In the same interview with Matthews, Simpson stressed that Republicans should stay away from social issues in the 2012 cycle. Is he right? At a time when the nation is fixated on fiscal issues, it's hard to say he's wrong.

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