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Santorum to announce White House run from western Pennsylvania coal fields next month

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In this May 2, 2011, photo, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum speaks during a Presidential Lecture Series sponsored by The Family Leader, at Pella Christian High School in Pella, Iowa.

Charlie Neibergall / AP Enlarge

WASHINGTON (AP) — Former Sen. Rick Santorum plans to kick off his Republican presidential campaign next month in western Pennsylvania coal fields where his immigrant grandfather once worked.

Santorum said Thursday on his Facebook page that he will announce his next steps on June 6. He then scheduled a visit to Iowa and New Hampshire, familiar stops for politicians with White House ambitions.

Advisers say the 53-year-old former senator wanted to use the Pennsylvania location because of its ties to his family, especially his Italian immigrant grandfather who worked in the coal mines. Santorum, whose campaign speeches routinely cite his family’s heritage and embrace of the American dream, was likely to continue those themes when he formalized what observers have anticipated for months.

Santorum already has announced his presidential exploratory committee and participated in an early debate that drew few of the likely candidates. He has spent months aggressively campaigning in the early nominating states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. He also has hired veterans of past presidential runs.

While the two-term senator lacks the name recognition of his better-known rivals, he is a favorite among the social conservatives who hold sway in some early nominating contests.

Santorum, a blunt-talking conservative who once was the No. 3 Senate Republican, enters the campaign with hurdles to overcome. He lost his Senate seat to Democrat Bob Casey in 2006 and has been out of elective office since 2007. He lacks the robust fundraising or personal wealth of his likely rivals.

Santorum was already looking toward the White House when he lost his Senate seat. His opposition to abortion, gay marriage and embryonic stem cell research appeal to conservatives. But his sometimes abrasive style alienated voters in Democratic-leaning Pennsylvania, and they replaced him with Casey, an anti-abortion Democrat.

Santorum, a lawyer by training, is married and has seven children.

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