Santorum launches bid for White House

By David Morgan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Former Senator Rick Santorum launched his long-shot Republican bid for president on Monday, pledging an unflinching commitment to conservative policies, including a Medicare reform plan that has proved unpopular with voters.

“We’re going to be in this race and we’re in it to win,” Santorum told ABC’s “Good Morning America” in an interview from his home state of Pennsylvania.

“What people are looking for is someone who has stood by their principles in good times and in bad,” he said before he was due to make a formal announcement later on Monday.

Santorum, 53, known for staunchly conservative positions on welfare reform and homosexuality, has already been campaigning in early voting states, including New Hampshire and South Carolina, where he won two informal Republican straw polls.

But he is at the bottom of the Republican pack in the slow-moving national primary election race for the party’s presidential nomination, garnering only 2 percent support in a Gallup poll of Republican voters last month.

Political insiders say his presidential prospects are weak, partly because he lost his Senate seat by a wide 59 to 41 percent margin in 2006, after sticking to his support for Social Security reforms that had soured on voters.

On Monday, he backed a Republican plan to transform the Medicare healthcare program for the elderly into a system that would help beneficiaries pay for private health insurance.

“Seniors can, in fact, do this. It does save money and it’s going to be a good thing for them and it’s going to be a great thing for our country,” Santorum said.

The plan, proposed by House of Representatives Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, has brought a backlash from voters and prompted some Republicans to back away from it.

But Santorum said his support for Medicare reform remained firm and presented his unwavering positions of the past as a political asset.

“If you look back at what I did and when I did it, people can say: You know what? He may have lost but he didn’t flinch. He stood by what he believed in and he continued the fight through the end,” he said.