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Santorum adds name to crowded Republican 2016 field

Aggressive conservative Rick Santorum is launching a new presidential bid. The former senator scored an unlikely second-place finish in the 2012 race for the Republican nomination.

Former Senator Rick Santorum plans to launch another presidential run. The 57-year-old has told supporters to stand by for a "special announcement" at a factory near his childhood home in Cabot, Pennsylvania, where workers will reportedly surround him - an apparent effort to show his blue-collar credentials.

"This is a long process," Santorum, a senator from 1995 to 2007, had told reporters recently about the "completely wide-open race" for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.

Santorum's semipopulist, professedly Catholic and inflammatory "family values" campaign proved a near-spoiler to

eventual nominee Mitt Romney

, a wealthy Mormon who reached out to centrists. His underfunded campaign, eventually failed, but he lasted longer than anyone expected. It was prone to the candidate's contrarian outbursts - for instance saying that President John F. Kennedy, a fellow Catholic, made him "want to throw up" by calling for separation of church and state. Still, Santorum won 11 primaries, including the first.

"I was the last person standing," Santorum told Republicans in South Carolina in January.

Second-time charms?

Santorum would enter as an underdog in a race expected to feature up to 15 major names - most of them newcomers to presidential politics. The prospective Republican field already includes four sitting senators, four governors, four former governors, business leaders and a retired neurosurgeon.

Upstart senators Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and Marco Rubio

have already declared

.

The Arkansas preacher-governor Mike Huckabee

will run and could siphon Christian votes. And Republicans contuinue to wait with bated breath for announcements from union-busting Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and Jeb Bush - the former Florida governor whose father and brother have occupied the White House in the past quarter century.

The major names may keep Santorum from even debating. Gatekeepers Fox News plan to limit participation in the network's August duel to candidates in the top 10 of polls. With 2.3 percent support, Santorum and at least one fellow 2012 candidate, former Texas Governor Rick Perry, remain on the bubble.

Santorum manages to insert his views into national dialogue when possible. He vocally opposes marriage equality, saying in April that he would not attend a same-sex wedding.

On the Democratic side, considerably fewer candidates have emerged to challenge the presumptive nominee,

Hillary Clinton

.

mkg/msh (Reuters, AFP, AP)

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