Former Sen. Rick Santorum announced that he would participate in the first debate of the presidential primary season, a May 5 face-off in Greenville sponsored by the South Carolina Republican Party and Fox News Channel.

Santorum has yet to announce a run for the GOP nomination and hasn’t even set up an exploratory committee.

I can’t say for sure that this is a first, but in 2008 all those who participated in the first debates were already either announced candidates or had formed an exploritory committee.  Even the late comer Fred Thompson, who did not announce until June remained out of the debates until September.

May 5th is fast approaching, with many of the potential high profile names yet to announce, there is some question if the initial debates will be beneficial or if they are just too early in a year that hasn’t seen nearly the activity as was seen in 2007.  The Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation must have been wondering the same thing when they announced that it is moving its “Reagan Centennial GOP Presidential Primary Candidates Debate” from May 2 to Sept. 14, 2011.

But if there was any doubt if Santorum was in, he is in.  He adds his name to those who have already announced or set up an exploratory committee.  That list includesNewt Gingrich, Tim Pawlenty, Herman Cain, Buddy Roemer, Fred Karger and now Rick Santorum.

Correction: I guess Newt is has only announced that he is exploring the possibility of an exploratory committee.  Leaving him in a fuzzy grey area as well, but pretty much in.  (thanks Shane).

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