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Pataki becomes latest Republican to give 2016 race a go

A former New York governor is joining the melee for the Republican presidential nomination. George Pataki has positioned himself as a Washington outsider and moderate who won three terms in a heavily Democratic state.

On Thursday, the 69-year-old former three-term New York Governor George Pataki ended his long-running flirtation with seeking the Republican presidential nomination and, via YouTube, asked the party's primary voters to marry him.

"If we are to flourish as a people, we have to fall in love with America again," he said in a video titled "Pataki for President" and posted on his website.

Pataki could bring a moderate voice to a field

that includes Senator Ted Cruz

and

former Arkansas preacher-governor Mike Huckabee

. He criticizes "religious freedom" bills backed by conservatives but called discriminatory by moderates who say they are written to marginalize LGBT Americans.

Still, Pataki has also tried to beef up his conservative credentials. In New Hampshire, he spoke against universal health care, criticized a presidential order to offer protections against deportation to unauthorized migrants, and said the United States could not afford another Democratic administration.

"Washington has grown too big, too powerful, too expensive and too intrusive," Pataki said in his announcement on Thursday. "This is exactly what the founding fathers feared."

A wild race

A Quinnipiac University survey found that five potential candidates share half Republicans' support, with each receiving 10 percent. However, 20 percent of respondents said they did not yet have a favored candidate.

The undeclared candidates are former Florida Governor Jeb Bush - son to former President George H.W. and brother to former President George W. - and union-busting Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. Florida Senator Marco Rubio, former Arkansas Governor Huckabee, and

the retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson

, the only African-American expected to run in the crowded Republican field, have all made their bids official.

None of those candidates beats prospective

Democratic nominee Hillary Rodham Clinton

in a hypothetical head-to-head. Aiming to become the first female US president, she earned 57 percent support from Democrats. The former first lady, senator and secretary of state is well ahead of her only declared competition so far, the US Senator Bernie Sanders, who tacks slightly to her left but only received 15 percent in the poll.

On Wednesday, former

Senator Rick Santorum added his name

to the Republican competition.

mkg/msh (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)

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