Rick Santorum officially launches presidential bid

Rick Santorum
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Rick Santorum

Republican Rick Santorum officially launched his second presidential campaign Wednesday.

The outspoken advocate for conservative values announced his plans at an event in Cabot, Pennsylvania. Santorum is entering a White House contest that will test his clout in an evolving GOP.

"Working families don't need another president tied to big government or big money, and today is the day we are gonna begin to fight back," the former Pennsylvania senator said.

A video introducing Santorum at the event pledged that he is "ready to take back our country for America's hard-working families."

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For his part, Santorum said he offers "a bold vision for America—one that's clear and conservative, that has plans to reform, and has a proven track record."

He then immediately proposed scrapping "the corrupt federal tax code and the IRS that goes with it" in favor of a flat tax.

The newly announced GOP candidate pledged to help America "regain the title of a leader in world manufacturing" on the back of low-cost energy and his economic plan.

His call to revoke "every executive order and regulation that cost American jobs" was met with loud applause from those assembled at his rally—mention of Democratic hopeful Hillary Clinton's name, meanwhile, was immediately met with boos.

Santorum won 11 states on his way to a second-place finish in the 2012 Republican primary contest. Yet he faces considerable challenges the second time around, and may not have enough public support to qualify for the first Republican presidential debate in August.

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Santorum, whose support has languished in the low single digits in most polls ahead of the 2016 race, faces a stronger and potentially larger field of Republican hopefuls this time.

He is the seventh Republican to formally declare a bid for the nomination, joining a group that includes U.S. senators Marco Rubio, Rand Paul and Ted Cruz. Other candidates expected to jump in the race in the coming months include former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

Santorum will face competition for Christian conservative voters, who helped propel his 2012 bid, from former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and others. A Catholic, Santorum won a reputation as a strong social conservative during his time in Washington, where he opposed same-sex marriage and the teaching of evolution in schools. He infuriated the gay community by comparing homosexuality to bestiality.

—Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.