Rick Santorum Makes White House Bid Official: 'In It To Win'

Rick Santorum, the former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania who has cultivated a following among some social conservatives in his party, said Monday he was officially entering the race for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination.

Santorum never really gave politics watchers any reasons to doubt he would enter the wide open race for the GOP nomination. His interest in the White House has long been known though his resounding 2006 Senate re-election defeat at the hands of Democrat Sen. Bob Casey placed more than a little speed bump in front of those plans.

Before his announcement speech in the western Pennsylvania town of Somerset in the state's coal mining region, Santorum told George Stephanopoulos on ABC News' Good Morning America that he perceived a path to the nomination.

"In the early primary states we have a lot of momentum and we're very excited about it."

"... What people are looking for is somebody who has stood by their principles in good times and bad. In 2006, by everybody's estimation, was a pretty bad time for a Republican and particularly for a conservatives, particularly in states like Pennsylvania. And I stood up and I didn't back away. I didn't back down on trying to reform the Social Security system..."

The Social Security point was noteworthy because Santorum used it to suggest he has a boldness even greater than Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) when it comes to reforming entitlements. Ryan, chair of the House Budget Committee, is associated with a controversial and unpopular plan to essentially privatize Medicare.

Social Security is viewed by many Americans as even more sacrosanct so Santorum's point was that if conservatives were impressed by Ryan, they should be even more impressed by him.

Santorum chose the western Pennsylvania town of Somerset in an old coal mining region for his announcement because it was near a mine where his Italian grandfather worked after immigrating to the U.S.

As Stephanopoulos noted, Santorum has done well in early tests of his popularity with the party's base, winning straw polls in New Hampshire and South Carolina.

But he likely will have competition for the social conservative vote from Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) who is widely expected to run as well as Atlanta businessman and radio talk show host Herman Cain, to name just two.

Also, Santorum is barely registering in the polls, coming in at two percent in a recent Gallup Poll compared with frontrunner Mitt Romney who was at 17 percent. Sarah Palin, who isn't an announced candidate, was at 15 percent.

Because he has been so outspoken on issues such as abortion and gay rights, Santorum is widely reviled by many liberals which no doubt further enhances his appeal with some conservatives.

For instance, in a 2003 Associated Press interview, Santorum made comments in which he clearly placed homosexual relationships in a morally gray area between heterosexual relationships and illegal, immoral and aberrant sexual relations.

He said:

"Every society in the history of man has upheld the institution of marriage as a bond between a man and a woman. Why? Because society is based on one thing: that society is based on the future of the society. And that's what? Children. Monogamous relationships. In every society, the definition of marriage has not ever to my knowledge included homosexuality. That's not to pick on homosexuality. It's not, you know, man on child, man on dog, or whatever the case may be. It is one thing. And when you destroy that you have a dramatic impact on the quality"

To which the AP reporter, Lara Jakes Jordan, uttered one of the most memorable journalistic responses ever to an interviewee's answer:

I'm sorry, I didn't think I was going to talk about "man on dog" with a United States senator, it's sort of freaking me out.

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