The presidential race may be two years away, but South Carolina's importance is starting to make things bubble up again.

Former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum told reporters at The Citadel on Monday that he didn't know where to begin in assessing President Barack Obama's job performance.

"This president has messed up so much that it's hard to put your finger on one potential thing," he said before speaking to a local women's group.

Santorum, who finished third in South Carolina's 2012 presidential primary, added that Russia's territorial grab in the Ukraine occurred "because we have shown weakness."

Santorum's visit comes as another party conservative and potential 2016 hopeful is scheduled to be at The Citadel on Tuesday night. Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz will address the Free Enterprise Foundation Awards Dinner at the Holliday Alumni Center on campus.

This will be Cruz's first visit to the state since November, shortly after the 16-day government shutdown that many saw him as having orchestrated.

Santorum said he probably won't decide on another presidential run until next year ahead of what is expected to be a crowded field on the Republican side.

He did say that South Carolina's two GOP Senate primaries are not among the races he will try to influence this year by way of an official endorsement.

"I'm not going to endorse everywhere," said Santorum, a former senator from Pennsylvania. "I'm only going to endorse in a handful of places where I think it's clear to me that we have choices that could risk us losing Senate seats."

In South Carolina this year, incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham faces six challengers in the June 10 GOP primary, while junior Sen. Tim Scott faces a long-shot GOP primary challenge from Randall Young of Greenville.

Santorum also said that just because two key figures from his presidential run are working for Columbia pastor Det Bowers, who is running against Graham in the June 10 GOP vote, it shouldn't be interpreted as a message of political support.

Former supporters are involved in campaigns "all over the place," Santorum said. "By the end we had a pretty good-sized staff. That doesn't involve tying me to one candidate or another."

Bowers is using Mike Biundo, Santorum's former national campaign manager, and Andrew Boucher, his past political director, in his run against Graham in the primary race.

Biundo offers political services through RightOn Strategies, while Boucher Strategies is a national consulting firm headquartered in Charleston, according to its website.

Santorum also discussed a book he has coming out in the coming weeks called "Blue Collar Conservatives." It's about Republicans needing to expand their reach among the job-holding sectors of the country, as opposed to its previous concentrations on business job-creators, he said.

"We haven't had a very effective message for them," said Santorum, who has two sons currently attending The Citadel.

Local Democrats, meanwhile, pounced on his visit.

"After a disappointing third place finish in 2012, it's surprising to see Rick Santorum crawling back to South Carolina," said Brady Quirk-Garvan, chairman of the Charleston County Democratic Party.

"I'm sure the Charleston County GOP would agree that after getting crushed by Newt Gingrich by a 2-to-1 margin, it's time for Santorum to go back to Pennsylvania and give up on his presidential ambitions."

Reach Schuyler Kropf at 937-5551