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Remember Rick Santorum? He Hopes South Carolina Does

January 19, 2015: Former Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum at the South Carolina Tea Party Convention in Myrtle Beach, SC. Leigh Ann Caldwell

Rick Santorum, who is contemplating another run for the White House, is working to remind voters that he was pretty successful last presidential race. At a tea party conference in South Carolina, Santorum reminded conservative participants that he gave the Republican nominee a good run.

“I ended up competing in 30 states and winning in 11. I was the last person standing,” Santorum told South Carolina tea party activists.

The former Pennsylvania Senator had little money but forced eventual nominee Mitt Romney to compete in the Republican primary far longer than any observer anticipated. When Santorum officially conceded the nomination in April, after more than half of the states had voted, most thought that would be the end of his political aspirations.

"That’s part of the process here - does it feel the same way (as it did in 2012)?"

But Santorum, despite losing his Senate seat in 2006 and the Republican nomination in 2012, is once again considering a bid for the White House. And he thanked the tea party crowd for their sustainability, in what could have easily been a plea for his candidacy: “Thank you for keeping the flame alive."

In an interview following his speech, Santorum seemed truly undecided if he was going to move forward. "There's a lot that goes into running for president. I know that," Santorum mused.

He is fresh off a weekend in Scottsdale, Arizona, organized by wealthy Republican donor Foster Friess, who largely floated Santorum's 2012 campaign.

"Foster is a great encourager. He’s such a positive and optimistic guy," Santorum said, adding that he and the assembled group talked about "what a campaign might look like."

"It’s just another step in the process," Santorum said.

Santorum said another step in the process is talking to this tea party group in an early primary state. It's the first time he's addressed a crowd since the presidential campaign has unofficially gotten underway. "It's a tough crowd," Santorum noted, because they are very passionate about their beliefs.

He thinks he did ok. When asked if he felt energized or dread when he was up on that stage, Santorum wouldn't say, but he said, "That’s part of the process here - does it feel the same way (as it did in 2012)?"

Santorum's campaign in 2012 was largely defined by his anti-abortion stances and statements regarding contraception and other "crazy stuff that doesn't have anything to do with anything" as Santorum put it. He blamed himself for opening his mouth and saying "dumb things."

Santorum: GOP 'hostile' to working folks 6:30

During his speech, Santorum talked about the importance of family and life, but didn't wade into social issues. He did, however, pan his former – and potential future – challenger, Mitt Romney, for failing to obtain a significant portion of the lower and middle income vote.

“And guess what, our candidate only got 19% of that vote,” Santorum said. “We better have a … movement that addresses and cares about the people who are losing hope.”

It’s notable that Romney, during his public declaration that he is thinking about another run, focused on addressing the issue of poverty. And he’s not the only one. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky has also made poverty a component of his platform.

Santorum discussed many of the same topics as Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Dr. Ben Carson, also potential presidential candidates who attended the conference. He decried the Affordable Care Act and Common Core educational standards, an issue that has become central to many conservatives’ concerns, and said that President Obama needs to “define” ISIS and other elements committing terrorists acts as Islamic fascists or Islamic extremists.

But the problem facing Santorum is that many of his supporters have moved on. With a crowded field of Republican presidential candidates expected that is likely to include a new crop of Republicans, Santorum’s challenge is going to re-excite is supporters.

“I’ve worn a Santorum sweater. I have one in my car," said Dean Anderson, an 84-year-old Greenville resident. The problem: “He doesn’t have a chance of getting elected.”