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Republicans Rick Santorum, Jon Huntsman take steps toward White House run

WASHINGTON — Republican presidential contenders Rick Santorum and Jon Huntsman on Tuesday took steps toward formally joining a still-forming GOP field.

Santorum, a former senator from Pennsylvania, established a presidential exploratory committee and announced he would participate in Thursday's debate in South Carolina. Huntsman, a former governor of Utah who last week stepped down as the U.S. ambassador to China, filed paperwork that lets him start building a national profile as he weighs a presidential campaign.

The moves come as the Republican field is coming together. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is preparing to formally join the race in the coming weeks, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty is planning an announcement tour, and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has scheduled fundraisers in the coming weeks.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee is seriously considering a bid as polls show him competitive despite laying none of the traditional groundwork for a campaign. And Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels is weighing a bid now that his Legislature has completed its session.

Santorum, who lost a bruising re-election bid in 2006, has been busy visiting the traditional early nominating states to lay the groundwork for a presidential bid.

Huntsman established a federal political action committee that lets him raise money, hire staff and travel around the country to build a national profile — but not necessarily seek the White House.

Huntsman left his post in the Obama administration last week and returned home amid speculation he would run for the White House. He has scheduled a weekend visit to South Carolina, which has an early spot on the presidential nominating calendar.

Republicans Rick Santorum, Jon Huntsman take steps toward White House run 05/03/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 3, 2011 11:25pm]
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