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February 8th, 2012
03:08 PM ET

10 reasons religious conservatives love Rick Santorum

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor

(CNN) – For all the attention paid to the clout of fiscally focused tea party conservatives and of the primacy of jobs in the 2012 election, Rick Santorum’s trifecta victories Tuesday night are a good reminder of the powerful role religious conservatives play in the GOP. They fueled Santorum’s wins in Missouri, Minnesota and Colorado and his earlier victory in the Iowa caucuses.

But why, exactly, do religious conservatives love the former senator from Pennsylvania? There are obvious reasons his advocacy against abortion and same-sex marriage, for instance but plenty of less obvious ones, too.

Here’s my list. What would you add?

  1. Santorum’s a family man. “He’s got this big, vibrant family and he left the campaign trail last week to go back and be with his daughter in the hospital,” says Eli Bremer, chairman of Colorado's El Paso County Republican Party, centered around evangelical-heavy Colorado Springs. Santorum recently returned to Pennsylvania to respond to a health scare involving daughter Isabella the youngest of his seven children who suffers from a genetic disease. “I spent time with him last year, and he’s constantly thinking about his family,” Bremer says of Santorum. “It’s not just a political stunt.”

  1. He’s not averse to getting politically incorrect when donning culture warrior chain mail. “So if the baby’s toe is in you can’t kill the baby how about if the baby’s foot is in?” he famously asked U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-California, in a 1999 debate over a rare, later term abortion procedure that anti-abortion groups call a "partial birth" abortion.

  1. Santorum’s a homeschooling dad. His wife, Karen, is homeschooling or has homeschooled their seven children, making them a poster family for a movement populated largely by evangelical Christians and other serious believers. “It matters because it shows he’s a real part of our movement rather than simply someone who is politically sympathetic,” says Michael Farris, an evangelical conservative who leads the Home School Legal Defense Association.

  1. He’s a devout cradle Catholic. As a kid in Pennsylvania, Santorum the altar boy would spend Sunday mornings pushing hospital patients in wheelchairs to Mass. As a U.S. senator, Santorum attended Mass at St. Joseph’s on Capitol Hill each day before work. That piety gets respect with religious voters, regardless of affiliation. “Evangelicals have made him an honorary evangelical,” said Richard Land, public policy chief for the Southern Baptist Convention.

  1. Santorum’s not Mitt Romney. Millions of socially conservative voters still distrust the former Massachusetts governor on the hot button issues abortion and same-sex marriage. Some, though not all, are put off by Romney’s Mormonism.

  1. Santorum’s not Newt Gingrich. Many social conservatives, particularly those of the female persuasion, continue to be turned off by Gingrich’s two failed marriages and his admissions of past marital infidelity.

  1. Santorum doesn’t just talk about opposing abortion, he’s legislated on it. As a senator, he was an architect of the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003. He pushed the ban even in the1990s, when Bill Clinton was in the White House and the legislation stood nary a chance of a presidential signature. “He walked the walk,” Land says. “When no one else would carry our water in the Senate, he would.”

  1. Ditto on same-sex marriage. Santorum sponsored a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage at a time when many Republicans lawmakers didn’t want to touch such a hot potato.

  1. Santorum’s big on compassionate conservatism. Though he gets the most ink for controversial stances on issues such as homosexuality, Santorum has also been a leading advocate for funding to fight AIDS in the Third World and has led conservative responses to poverty. “A lot of people have a hard time getting Rick Santorum because they’re used to a debate between liberalism and complete free-market approach and he’s not either of those things,” says Michael Gerson, a Washington Post columnist and former speechwriter for President George W. Bush.

    1. Santorum isn’t afraid to challenge science, questioning the theory of evolution and dismissing global warming as “a hoax.” The former senator “confirms (social conservatives’) view of science as being at odds with a Christian worldview,” tweets Warren Throckmorton, a psychology professor at Grove City College, an evangelical Christian school in Pennsylvania.

CNN Belief Blog co-editor Eric Marrapodi contributed to this report.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Politics • Rick Santorum

soundoff (2,587 Responses)
  1. vinegar hard water

    Very great post. I simply stumbled upon your blog and wished to say that I have truly loved surfing around your blog posts. After all I'll be subscribing for your feed and I am hoping you write again soon!

    April 20, 2012 at 8:11 pm |
  2. Samuel

    "Lori...how about that..the man who claims that Romney eliabd out Wall Street {how stupid is that}..actually voted to bail out the steel industry. hmmmmmm" Neither of those industries should have been eliabd out. As such both men are not as Conservative as some of us would like, but on balance, Mr. Santorum did not distort the markets quite as bad.

    April 3, 2012 at 11:19 pm |
  3. Alondris

    Yes, Bos, let's look at this argument. Big Government vs. Big HealthCare. Mr. Earmarks vs. Mr. Massachusetts. You've fmread the issue well. Unfortunately, Mr. Big Gov't & Earmarks is the "new normal" for the USA. Is Rick Santorum the perfect candidate? No, but that brings us to the next issue, Big HealthCare from Mr. Massachusetts. There in lies the rub for Mr. "M" & the popularity of Rick Santorum. Why? Because the majority of Americans oppose Obama Care. It's just that simple.Now, we can argue all day point-counter point on the Health Care issue(s), but realize that Romney Care was in fact the model for Obama Care. Hence, Mr. M's biggest problem. So, going into the Fall, we'll have two Progressive candidates should Mr. M win, that are going to never address the Obama Care issue. Obama because it's his signature legislative achievement as President, and Mr. M because it's his signature achievement as Governor. It's the deafening silence of O-Mitt vs. O-bama. Both "mainstream" candidates will not address the issue the voting electorate absolutely does not want, was forced down their throats on a cram down, and now is supposed to choose either O-Mitt or O-bama to dismantle. Talk about lunacy by the GOP establishment, here it is on full display for all to see. Mr. Santorum at least offers to high-light this & wisely has decided it needs to go, as Obama Care is the most un-conservative program that could ever be devised because it completely destroys personal freedoms & choices.So, the more informed voters will see this ruse for what it is, a "rope-a-dope" issue, because if they elect either "mainstream" candidate, O-Mitt or O-bama, the result will be the extension of the Obama Care Law. O-Mitt will say he will dismantle it, but one of his lieutenants has stated otherwise. Words by candidates are not as persuasive as their actions while in office. Mr. M's record is clear. The ghost of Teddy Kennedy haunts Mr. M & will do so forever on this healthcare issue. The picture of the Romney Care signing ceremony is seared into every conservatives brain.

    April 1, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
  4. ggiavelli

    Santorum's NOT RON PAUL: He's FOR unbalanced budgets endless spending overseas on unneeded wars and bases, He's FOR the NDAA which allows the government to arrest, torture and kill you without a trial or lawyer. Yep he's no Ron Paul

    March 20, 2012 at 7:31 pm |
  5. gerc

    Put off by Romney's Mormonism? Has the evangelical right now totally embraced the infallibility of the pope? The claim that he is god on earth? The vicar of Christ? That he can forgive sins? The worship of Mary and praying to dead saints?

    February 23, 2012 at 5:38 pm |
  6. Serge D.

    In my opinion, the point #10 should disqualify him automatically. How to imagine that the leader of the #1 economic and military power in the world would base his judgements and opinions (and ultimately his decisions and actions!) not on facts but on the beliefs ans writings of some religion? Would he send the US Navy to the edge of the "flat world"?

    This possibly requires a therapy and some mild medication, but he should be left to roam freely, as long as he is not considered dangerous to others.

    February 18, 2012 at 4:54 pm |
  7. Michelle

    Most American's HAVE lost the HOPE of liberty to pursue their dreams with the current economic crisis.

    February 14, 2012 at 8:02 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.