— -- By MICHAEL FALCONE
--EXCLUSIVE -- GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS SITS DOWN WITH SANTORUM: Today, as former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum gets ready to make a "major announcement," ABC's GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS will sit down for an exclusive interview with the former and likely future presidential candidate who is expected to make his White House bid official. Santorum will hold an event this evening in Butler County, Pennsylvania. Look for complete coverage on ABCNews.com and tune into "World News Tonight with David Muir" and "Good Morning America" tomorrow for more of George's interview with Santorum.
--A SANTORUM AIDE TELLS THE NOTE: "The focus on the Senator's remarks tonight will be about the need to fight for the American worker that has been left behind by big government, big business, and both political parties. He will also be contrasting his record with that of Secretary Clinton throughout his remarks. He'll be giving his speech from a factory floor just 10 miles from where he grew up and at a company -- Penn United Technologies -- that he visited when he first ran for the Senate in 1994. At that time, they had just one building, today they have a 100 acre campus with 600 employees. They epitomize the type of manufacturing renaissance Sen. Santorum talks about."
--ANALYSIS -- ABC's RICK KLEIN: He comes to the race as last time's runner-up, the guy who outlasted the Cain-Bachmann-Gingrich-and-company primary to be the last man standing against Mitt Romney. That might be Rick Santorum's advantage, but it will also be his burden. Yes, the party's moved on so much -- and the field is so much better -- that Santorum is in danger of not even getting one of the 10 invites to the first GOP debate, in August. He won Iowa (belatedly) last time, but still lost the nomination; next year's caucus field will include another former winner, Mike Huckabee, plus Ted Cruz, Scott Walker, and Rand Paul, just to name a few who'll be competitive. His path back needs to include his same small handful of wealthy friends -- Foster Friess is on board again -- and a revitalized message. As he makes his big announcement Wednesday at a manufacturing plant in the working-class Pennsylvania town he grew up in, we'll begin to see how and if a second Santorum run can expand his social-conservative message to include economic empowerment. Pizza Ranches, the "Chuck Truck," and maybe even sweater vests await.
MEANWHILE, IN SOUTH CAROLINA
--HILLARY CLINTON RETURNS today for the first time in nearly eight years for a one-day swing through the state's capital, Columbia, according to ABC's LIZ KREUTZ. During her short visit, Clinton's focus will be on women and minorities. She will participate in a roundtable discussion with "minority women small business owners" in the morning and then deliver the keynote address to the South Carolina House Democratic Women's Caucus and the South Carolina Democratic Women's Council at their Third Annual Day in Blue event. Clinton will also visit the State House to meet with House and Senate Democratic caucuses.
--FLASHBACK TO 2008: For Clinton, South Carolina harbors bad memories and bruising moments. Just before the state's primary in 2008, when Clinton and Barack Obama were seemingly neck in neck in the race, Bill Clinton called Obama's positioning on the Iraq war a "fairy tale" -- a polarizing remark that many perceived to be racist. The comment fired up South Carolina's large swath of black primary voters who then rallied behind Obama. Ultimately, Clinton lost the state's primary by nearly 30 points to the future president.
--FLASH-FORWARD -- CLINTON'S GOT COMPANY. Clinton will arrive hoping to move beyond the past, but she'll be greeted by a new kind of challenger: Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina. The Former Hewlett-Packard CEO, and only other female candidate in the race, is planning to rain on Clinton's parade by hosting her own event outside of the hotel where Clinton will be delivering a keynote. In an invite sent last night addressed to the "Traveling Press Corps," Fiorina's campaign took a jab at Clinton: "Our events tomorrow are all open to the press. And by open press, we mean we'll actually take questions. That's right. We've answered hundreds of questions from reporters because we believe the American people will not and should not elect a president that can't answer for her record, won't explain her positions or for whom the truth is whatever she can get away with."
--NOTED: FIORINA SUPER PAC OPENING SOUTH CAROLINA H.Q. Carly for America, the super PAC supporting Fiorina's candidacy is opening its South Carolina headquarters in Greenville today. "We've had many South Carolinians express their support for Carly and ask how they can get involved," Steve DeMaura, Executive Director of Carly for America, said in a statement. "This overwhelming response clearly shows that Carly's personal experiences and message of changing the status quo is resonating with voters across South Carolina and the country. We're looking forward to working with South Carolinians as we help elect Carly Fiorina to be President of the United States."
TODAY ON THE TRAIL with ABC's CHRIS GOOD: Rick Santorum is expected to announce his presidential decision today. In addition to his exclusive interview with ABC's GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, he'll hold an event at Penn United Technologies in Cabot, Pennsylvania near his boyhood home in Butler County, at 5 pm ET. Hillary Clinton will be in South Carolina, where she'll deliver a keynote address to the South Carolina House Democratic Women's Caucus and the South Carolina Democratic Women's Council at 1:45 pm ET. Bernie Sanders is in New Hampshire after formally kicking off his campaign in Vermont yesterday. He'll hold a town-hall in Concord at 12 pm ET, attend a house party in Epping at 5 pm ET, and hold another town-hall in Portsmouth at 7 pm ET. Carly Fiorina is in South Carolina, where she'll attend a luncheon with the South Carolina GOP's legislative caucus in Columbia at 12:30 pm ET. Later, she'll hold a meet and greet and roundtable at Spartanburg Community College in Spartanburg at 4 pm ET. Mike Huckabee attends a fundraiser in southern California.
with ABC's VERONICA STRACQUALURSI
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS KICKS OFF PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN. The longest-serving Independent senator in U.S. history, Bernie Sanders of Vermont, kicked-off his presidential campaign for the Democratic nomination Tuesday with a colorful and lively event in Burlington. With blue-grass music, tie-dye and free ice cream, the afternoon event felt half like a summer festival and half like a political rally. A self-identified "Democratic Socialist," Sanders is known on Capitol Hill for speaking about income inequality and higher tax rates for corporations and the nation's top earners. Sanders wasted little time getting to his favorite issues, according to ABC's MARYALICE PARKS. "Today, we say clearly enough is enough," he said. "This great nation and its government belong to all of the people and not just a handful of billionaires." "There is something profoundly wrong when the top one-tenth of 1 percent owns almost as much as wealth as the bottom 90 percent. This has got to change and, as your president, together we will change it," Sanders said. In addition to campaign finance reform, Sanders made sure to hit on other hot-button progressive issues. http://abcn.ws/1GC3cs3
JOHN MCCAIN DRAWS A BIG-NAME DEMOCRATIC CHALLENGER. As popular Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain seeks a sixth term in the U.S. Senate, a potential Democratic opponent emerged after Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, a three-term lawmaker from Flagstaff, entered the race. "In Arizona we tell it straight, so let's get right to it," Kirkpatrick said in a campaign video announcement released yesterday. "I'm announcing my candidacy for the United States Senate. I love this state." McCain, who would turn 80 before Election Day, is unlikely to draw any Republican House members into a primary -- but facing off against Kirkpatrick, who is well-funded, could possibly prove to be a tough race for the former Republican presidential nominee, ABC's JOHN PARKINSON notes. http://abcn.ws/1PKy7s7
OBAMA ON FREEDOM ACT: 'THIS NEEDS TO GET DONE.' President Obama scolded the Senate for leaving town for a week-long recess without reaching an agreement to renew certain provisions of the Patriot Act that are set to expire at midnight on May 31 if Congress fails to reach a compromise. "The House of Representatives did its work which strikes the appropriate balance," Obama said of the House's USA Freedom Act yesterday, ABC's JORDYN PHELPS reports. "The Senate did not act...I strongly urge the Senate to work through this recess and make sure that they identify a way to get this done." "This needs to get done," he continued.
WHITE HOUSE: NO APOLOGY FOR DEFENSE SECRETARY'S COMMENTS ON IRAQI FORCES. The White House is not disputing Defense Secretary Ash Carter's contention that the Iraqi Army lacks the will to fight. "Well, that certainly has been a problem we've seen in the past; that's what allowed ISIL to make such significant gains last summer," Press Secretary Josh Earnest told ABC News at yesterday's press briefing. It initially appeared Monday that Joe Biden was patching up Carter's remark by placing a call to Iraq's prime minister to "reaffirm U.S. support" and recognize "the enormous sacrifice and bravery of Iraqi forces." But there was no hint of an apology in yesterday's briefing. "What the Iraqi government has acknowledged is that the setback that they experienced in Ramadi was at least in part attributable to a breakdown in some military command and planning," Earnest told reporters Tuesday. Earnest did not directly answer the question when asked whether the president agreed with Carter and instead listed a variety of factors that he said contributed to a weak security situation in Ramadi, according to ABC's JONATHAN KARL and JORDYN PHELPS. http://abcn.ws/1cYj0JM
@amychozick: The policy roundtable is to Hillary Clinton what the big rally was to Obama, empathetic town hall to Bill Clinton. http://mobile.nytimes.com/2015/05/28/us/politics/hillary-clinton-tells-voters-shes-listening-and-learning.html?referrer= …
@marcorubio: I just published "When Hillary Clinton Campaigns In South Carolina Today…" https://medium.com/@marcorubio/when-hillary-clinton-campaigns-in-south-carolina-today-36be1fd0c63f?source=tw-f08a19b5833f-1432731294773 …
@NickGass: Rand Paul blames "hawks in our party" for Islamic State's rise: http://politi.co/1KnPzvG
@RosieGray: The Most Important Republican Donor You Don't Know Is Married To One You Do: my profile of Miriam Adelson. http://www.buzzfeed.com/rosiegray/miriam-adelson?utm_term=.kmG2mrYmb …
@postpolitics: The Clintons' finances are way too complex for the average person. That's a problem. http://wapo.st/1LIQvvO