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Tiptoe to 2012: Santorum Forms Presidential Exploratory Committee

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Will participate in Thursday's debate in South Carolina.

WASHINGTON (AP/THE BLAZE) -- Former Sen. Rick Santorum is taking the next step toward a presidential bid.

Santorum on Tuesday said he had established a presidential exploratory committee and would participate in Thursday's debate in South Carolina, an early presidential nominating state. The Pennsylvania Republican previously had filed a preliminary committee with the Federal Election Commission.

Establishing the presidential exploratory committee allows Santorum to raise and spend money but requires him to disclose his donors.

Santorum, who lost a bruising re-election bid in 2006, has been busy visiting the traditional early nominating states and hiring staff. He has laid the groundwork for a presidential bid but says he isn't yet declaring a White House run.

Meanwhile, Jon Huntsman has also taken the first step toward a presidential run.

Politico reports:

Former U.S. Ambassador to China Ambassador Jon Huntsman took his first step toward a presidential run Tuesday, creating a federal political action committee that will allow him to travel and raise money in the weeks before he's expected to formally announce a bid.
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