EXETER, N.H. (Reuters) - Former New York Governor George Pataki announced on Thursday he will run for the White House in 2016, becoming one of the longest shots in a growing pack of candidates for the Republican presidential nomination.
The three-term governor has not held office since 2006 and barely registers in opinion polls on more than a dozen Republican presidential hopefuls.
Pataki, 69, is a moderate voice in a Republican field heavy with conservatives likely to do well in such states as Iowa and South Carolina that hold the first nominating contests for the November 2016 election.
He acknowledges he is starting the race from way back.
Lacking name recognition, Pataki might struggle to make it into the first Republican debate in August on Fox News, which will be limited to the top 10 Republicans in national opinion polls.
Announcing his candidacy in the town of Exeter, New Hampshire, Pataki took a swipe at Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton for charging high speaking fees.
"She speaks for the middle class? They are the party of privilege; we are the party of the middle class," he said.
As governor of one of the most Democratic-leaning states, he supported abortion rights and signed tough gun control legislation. But on Thursday he said his "conservative policies" had slashed the number of people on welfare.
Pataki is the eighth Republican to formally enter the White House race and others like former Florida Governor Jeb Bush are waiting in the wings, leaving Pataki with only slim chances.
"It will be a very stiff climb up a very steep mountain, but that hasn’t stopped me in the past,” Pataki told the New York Post this week.
He said on Thursday his time as governor during the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in New York and Washington had given him valuable insight into the fight against Islamic State.
Pataki favors deploying ground troops against Islamic State in a limited way.
"And yes, if necessary, American forces will be used to actually defeat and destroy ISIS so they can pose no threat to us here," he said in Exeter, where the Republican Party was founded in 1853.
Pataki called for a simplification of the U.S. tax code and a ban on former members of Congress becoming lobbyists, and vowed to repeal President Barack Obama's signature healthcare law.
The former governor has been carrying out low-key campaigning in recent months, especially in New Hampshire and Florida.
Additional reporting by Doina Chiacu and Emily Stephenson in Washington; Writing by Alistair Bell; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Howard Goller