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By David Lightman, McClatchy Washington Bureau (TNS)

WASHINGTON — Rick Santorum, touting himself as the candidate of the blue-collar, family-oriented Republican, launched another presidential bid Wednesday, but this time he’s got a lot more than Mitt Romney to overcome.

Speaking to supporters in Cabot, Pennsylvania, near the town where he grew up, Santorum portrayed himself as a champion of working-class people.

“Working families don’t need another president tied to big government or big money,” the former U.S. senator said, “and today is the day we’re going to begin to fight back.”

He faces a rough political road, though.

“Santorum over-performed in 2012, but he did it against a much weaker field and, let’s face it: He did not get particularly close to winning the nomination,” said Kyle Kondik, managing editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia.

Still, don’t count the former senator from Pennsylvania out, said David Bossie, president of Citizens United, a conservative advocacy group.
“He has a difficult path, but he has a lot of residual good will in Iowa,” Bossie said.

Santorum spoke Wednesday near his boyhood home of Butler, Pennsylvania, 35 miles north of Pittsburgh. He cited his grandfather, who came to the United States from Italy, escaping the fascist government.

Santorum held up a lump of coal, symbolic of his immigrant grandfather, who labored in the mines. “This is where my American story started,” he said.

The newly announced candidate pushed a family-friendly agenda — he and his wife, Karen, have had eight children — and made a pitch for the blue-collar vote. He often urges reinvigorating America’s manufacturing base, for so long the economic lifeblood of the heavy industrial region where he grew up.

“Their priorities are profits and power,” he said of the powerful. “My priority is you, the American worker.”

Santorum urged adoption of a flat tax and an education system “customized to maximize” a student’s potential. He urged driving a stake through the heart of Common Core, a set of educational standards often opposed by conservatives.

He didn’t specifically criticize his own party, but he has in the past. “Do Republicans really care less about the person at the bottom of the ladder than Democrats do? To be painfully honest, I would have to say in some ways ‘yes,'” he wrote last year in his book, “Blue Collar Conservatives: Recommitting to an American That Works.”

“There are some in my party who have taken the ideal of individualism to such an extreme that they have forgotten the obligation to look out for our fellow man,” he wrote.

Santorum on Wednesday reiterated his unabashedly conservative views on social issues, noting that he believes every life matters.

Santorum emerged in 2012 as the favorite of hardcore conservatives. He won the first-in-the-nation caucus in Iowa that year, but not until it was too late. Romney, the eventual Republican nominee, was declared the winner by eight votes after the caucuses ended, but when official results were announced 16 days later, Santorum had won by 34 votes.

It was too late to gain any momentum, and Santorum had other troubles. He couldn’t match Romney’s money and organization, and he was seen by centrists as too far right to win against Barack Obama.

“I know what it’s like to be the underdog,” he told his supporters Wednesday.

(c)2015 McClatchy Washington Bureau, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Screenshot: Washington Post/YouTube

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Eric Holder

The failure of major federal voting rights legislation in the Senate has left civil rights advocates saying they are determined to keep fighting—including by suing in battleground states. But the little bipartisan consensus that exists on election reform would, at best, lead to much narrower legislation that is unlikely to address state-level GOP efforts now targeting Democratic blocs.

“This is the loss of a battle, but it is not necessarily the loss of a war, and this war will go on,” Eric Holder, the former U.S. attorney general and Democrat, told MSNBC, saying that he and the Democratic Party will be suing in states where state constitutions protect voting rights. “This fight for voting rights and voter protection and for our democracy will continue.”

“The stakes are too important to give up now,” said Damon Hewitt, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which for years has operated an Election Day hotline to help people vote. “Our country cannot claim to be free while allowing states to legislate away that freedom at will.”

In recent weeks, as it became clear that the Senate was not going to change its rules to allow the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to pass with a simple majority, there have been efforts by some lawmakers, election policy experts, and civil rights advocates to identify what election reforms could pass the Senate.

“There are several areas… where I think there could be bipartisan consensus,” said David Becker, executive director of the Center for Election Innovation and Research, in a briefing on January 20. “These areas are all around those guardrails of democracy. They are all about ensuring that however the voters speak that their voice is heard… and cannot be subverted by anyone in the post-election process.”

Becker cited updating the 1887 Electoral Count Act, which addressed the process where state-based slates of presidential electors are accepted by Congress. (In recent weeks, new evidence has surfaced showing that Donald Trump’s supporters tried to present Congress with forged certificates as part of an effort to disrupt ratifying the results on January 6, 2021.) Updating that law could also include clarifying which state officials have final authority in elections and setting out clear timetables for challenging election results in federal court after Election Day.

Five centrist Washington-based think tanks issued a report on January 20, Prioritizing Achievable Federal Election Reform, which suggested federal legislation could codify practices now used by nearly three-quarters of the states. Those include requiring voters to present ID, offering at least a week of early voting, allowing all voters to request a mailed-out ballot, and allowing states to start processing returned absentee ballots a week before Election Day.

But the report, which heavily drew on a task force of 29 state and local election officials from 20 states convened by Washington’s Bipartisan Policy Center, was notable in what it did not include, such as restoring the major enforcement section of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which was removed by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013. It did not mention the Electoral Count Act nor growing threats to election officials from Trump supporters.

“This won’t satisfy all supporters of the Freedom to Vote Act, but this is a plausible & serious package of reforms to make elections more accessible and secure that could attract bipartisan support,” tweeted Charles Stewart III, a political scientist and director of the MIT Election Data and Science Lab. “A good starting point.”

The reason the centrist recommendations won’t satisfy civil rights advocates is that many of the most troubling developments since the 2020 election would likely remain.

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(Reuters) -The prosecutor for Georgia's biggest county on Thursday requested a special grand jury with subpoena power to aid her investigation into then-President Donald Trump's efforts to influence the U.S. state's 2020 election results.

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