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Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum (R) formally announced his candidacy for President of the United States on Monday.

“People are looking for a leader who is optimistic and ready to meet our challenges, not with big government but with free people,” he said in his announcement. “I’m ready to lead with the courage to fight for our freedom and the courage to fight for America.”

Santorum, who served two terms as senator between 1995 and 2007, is struggling to stand out among a pool of well-known candidates that includes former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. His name recognition is just 44 percent, compared to Palin’s 95 percent, according to Gallup.

A social and fiscal conservative, Santorum has found himself the subject of some Penn students’ protests.

In 2002, 16 students — including members of the campus organization Penn for Peace — were arrested for staging a sit-in at Santorum’s Philadelphia office to protest his support for military action in Iraq.

In 2003, members of Penn Democrats and Lambda Law, the LGBT group of Penn Law School joined more than 200 gay-rights supporters to protest statements Santorum made comparing homosexuality to bigamy, incest, polygamy and adultery.

When Santorum visited campus to speak during Terrorism Awareness Week in 2007, members of Penn Against War walked out as he was talking, one of them waving a paper that said “War is Over” in his face. In addition, some students convened outside Hillel to protest Santorum’s politics, among other issues.

“The main thing [Santorum] needs to do is to make it clear why social conservatism is appealing to students,” said rising College and Wharton senior and College Republicans President Charles Gray. “A lot of that has to do with getting out there and talking to students.”

Santorum burst onto the political scene in 1990 by defeating seven-term Democratic Congressman Doug Walgren with almost no party support. In 1994, he ran a grassroots campaign to defeat Democratic incumbent Harris Wofford to become Pennsylvania’s junior senator. Two terms later, Santorum was thoroughly defeated by Democratic challenger Bob Casey Jr. in a highly publicized and contentious Senate race.

“He ran for reelection for the Senate in Pennsylvania in a tough year, and that had a major role in why he was defeated,” Gray said. “Santorum has long been a strong social conservative, and for that he has the potential to be positioned strongly in the race [for president].”

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