Sen. Ernest Hollings (D) of South Carolina announced his candidacy for President of the United States by declaring himself an advocate of ''the common good'' rather than ''special interests.''
Senator Hollings, whose rhetorical style and regional base tend to cast him as a Southern candidate, sought to broaden his appeal in his opening statements delivered Monday in Columbia, S.C., and Washington, D.C.
''The Democratic Party lost the 1980 election because we lost the faith of the American people,'' he said. ''Every time a special interest appeared, we responded. Every time a problem arose, we offered a single solution - spend more money.''
Holling's aides say he will take a different tack from that of Walter Mondale , who is trying to link the traditional Democratic voter blocs such as labor and educators. Hollings will try to approach the caucuses and primaries much as he would an election against Reagan. Aides say they look to televised debates among the Democrats for a chance for Hollings to move up from his fifth or sixth position.
''There is hard work to do, painful sacrifice to make, genuine discipline to impose on ourselves,'' Hollings said. ''Ronald Reagan has broken the discipline. He has delivered us disastrous deficits, caused Depression-level joblessness, and he has demolished the consensus we need for the rebuilding of our depleted defenses.''
Hollings is well aware of the South's crucial position in 1984. ''A third of the delegates to the '84 convention are in the 17 South and border states,'' says his campaign director, Billy Keyserling, ''and most of these are determined early in the primaries.''