Joseph Kaczmarek, Associated Press
WEST CHESTER, Pa. — Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum said Friday that he's in the race for the long haul and hasn't considered dropping out.
"We haven't even had a discussion about a discussion" of ending his candidacy, Santorum said after arriving at a small airport in West Chester, just outside Philadelphia.
The former senator from Pennsylvania returned to the state after a period of intense campaigning in Florida, just days ahead of the primary there. He's facing an uphill battle to force his way into what has become a two-man fight between Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney.
Santorum won the Iowa caucuses but later lost big in New Hampshire and South Carolina. Still, he said Friday he'll be in the race for "a long, long, long time."
"We feel good that as time goes on, we're going to look better," he said.
Santorum was slated to attend a fundraiser in the Philadelphia suburbs on Friday night. He said he'd later return home to northern Virginia to do his taxes.
Santorum, once the Senate's No. 3 Republican, represented Pennsylvania from 1995 until 2007, when he lost his seat to Bob Casey.
A lawyer, devout Catholic and father of seven, he was raised in the blue-collar western Pennsylvania town of Butler. He has proudly brandished conservative credentials throughout his career, championing a balanced budget amendment, railing against big government and writing a sweeping welfare reform bill in 1996.
He has earned a reputation as a hardliner on social issues, successfully pushing a bill that banned late-term abortions and saying in 2003 that he believed states had the right to ban gay sex. He also opposes embryonic stem cell research.
Casey, during his successful challenge in 2006, accused Santorum of pursuing a rigid ideology that put him out of step with voters. But Santorum, shortly after his loss to Casey, already was looking toward a White House bid.
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