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Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum is running for president, he announced this morning. And unlike many of his other rivals, who tiptoe around the controversial Republican plan to scrap Medicare while praising author Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), Santorum jumped in this morning by calling himself tougher than Ryan when it comes to making hard choices about spending.

"I didn't back down on trying to reform the Social Security system," Santorum said when asked by ABC's George Stephanopoulos about his 2006 race, which he lost in a landslide. "In an election year, I went out to the floor of the United States Senate with Jim DeMint and started arguing for reforming Social Security."

"Not even Paul Ryan in his budget now, in the face of trillions of dollars of deficits currently, had the temerity to step forward and say we've got to do Social Security," he added.

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Scientists said Sunday they had trapped and stored antihydrogen atoms for a record 16 minutes -- making a major step toward understanding the nature of the origins of the universe.

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Newt Gingrich isn't appearing at the Faith and Freedom Conference in DC this weekend. He's pretty much the only Republican candidate for President who isn't. But as the event drew to a close Saturday night, he tried to make his case to the social conservative voters gathered here anyway.

Via a prerecorded video address, Gingrich stressed his connection with social conservatives, and promised that he understood the fight they face ahead.

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Don't expect Herman Cain to include a prayer in his keynote speech before the Faith And Family Conference in Washington tonight. After an interview with TPM Saturday, the ascendant Republican presidential candidate said the public prayer Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) included in her speech was "the ultimate pander."

After our interview, Cain asked me about the other candidate speeches I've seen covering FFC this year. There was no indication that Cain had seen them. I mentioned that Bachmann had highlighted her remarks with a prayer -- she led the crowd in a long, politically-tinged prayer ending in "Amen" at the end of her remarks Friday.

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Rick Santorum has a message for President Obama: Despite what you may think, America was pretty awesome before the mid-60s.

Santorum is one of two presidential candidates speaking during the Saturday sessions at the Faith and Freedom Conference in downtown DC. At home before the social conservative crowd today, he offered up a ripping speech that touched on his long history as a national culture warrior.

As is so often the case in a Santorum address -- or a speech by virtually all of the Republicans in contention for the presidential nomination these days -- the subject of American exceptionalism came up. Sanoturm has woven this into his foreign policy speeches before, but today he raised the idea in the context of the entitlement fight.

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Mitt Romney, the presumptive frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination next year, made his speech at the Faith and Freedom Conference Friday night all about jobs.

Romney was one of the few speakers to mention Friday's jobs report, and he wielded it like a cleaver to attack President Obama before a rapt audience in downtown DC.

"Hear what he said today?" Romney asked the crowd. He criticized Obama for calling the unexpectedly high jobless numbers "bumps on the road to recovery" in an Ohio speech earlier in the day.

"No, Mr. President, that's not a bump," Romney said. "That's Americans."

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Donald Trump stopped by the Faith and Family Conference Friday evening to drop more hints about an independent run for the White House, while questioning the veracity of President Obama's longform birth certificate and taking on GOP leadership over its approach to disaster relief funds.

"Representative [Eric] Cantor, who I like, said we don't want to give money to the tornado victims," Trump said. "And yet in Afghanistan we're spending $10 billion a month. But we don't want to help the people that got devastated by tornadoes. Wiped out, killed, maimed, injured -- we don't have money for them but we're spending $10 billion a month in Afghanistan."

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So much for dropping out -- Donald Trump tells TPM he believes he can win the White House as an independent candidate, keeping his name in the presidential game despite declaring last month he would not run for the GOP nomination.

TPM caught up with Trump at the Faith & Freedom Conventionm after he left a closed door meeting with event organizer Ralph Reed and other social conservatives and asked how he figured he'd do as an independent.

"I think I'd do great," he said, telling TPM he believed he could win the White House. As for whether he'll run, he said it depended on the GOP nominee.

"Let's see what happens with the Republicans, who they put up," he said.

Asked if he was consulting with pollsters on a run, he said "I was leading in the polls when I decided to sign a very big contract -- I was actually leading."

Polls actually showed his support among Republicans imploding right before he announced he was dropping out, but Trump's reopened the door to a presidential conversation recently anyway. As with his flirtation with the GOP primary, he'd have to give up his show to enter the race.

Trump received a warm reaction from the crowd for his speech, in which he slammed Minority Leader Eric Cantor for demanding spending offsets for disaster relief in Joplin, MO and suggested Obama's birth certificate was forged.

Kenneth Del Vecchio, a Republican candidate for New Jersey state Senate and a producer of conservative-themed films, is premiering a psychological thriller this weekend with a pro-life twist: Three pregnant women, who intend to have abortions, are kidnapped and forced to carry their pregnancies to term.

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The liberal Progressive Change Campaign Committee has won a round against the National Republican Congressional Committee -- with the liberal group turning back an effort to get an ad targeting Republican proposals on Medicare pulled from broadcast.

As Greg Sargent reported, the NRCC wrote a letter to WMUR in New Hampshire and Comcast, complaining that a PCCC ad attacking Rep. Charlie Bass (R-NH) for having "voted to end Medicare" was false and demanding that it be taken down.

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