(Reuters) - Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum competes in the New Hampshire primary election on Thursday in the Republican race to find a challenger to President Barack Obama in November's presidential election.

Here are some facts about him.

* A fervent Catholic, Santorum described himself in New Hampshire this week as the "the Jesus candidate." He is best known for his opposition to abortion, criticism of homosexuality and the teaching of evolution in schools.

* The grandson of an Italian immigrant coal miner, Santorum has seven children.

* His campaign website says Santorum was a "Tea Party kind of guy before there was a Tea Party." He says he fought for fiscal reform like balancing the U.S. budget and revising entitlement programs "before it was in fashion."

* Santorum narrowly lost last week's Iowa caucuses by eight votes. He visited all 99 Iowa counties in the campaign.

* In 2003, Santorum took heat for comments appearing to equate homosexuality with incest, bigamy, adultery and polygamy. In an interview, Santorum said the Supreme Court should uphold state sodomy laws like a Texas law that was before the high court. "If the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery," Santorum said.

* Santorum, 53, represented the battleground state of Pennsylvania in Congress, serving first as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives and then as a U.S. senator. Santorum, a forceful debater, rose to become chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, making him the third-ranking Senate Republican. But Pennsylvania voters threw him out of the Senate by an 18-point margin in 2006 after a bruising battle in which he was hit for his staunch support of then-President George W. Bush.