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Santorum could siphon off religious conservative support from GOP field
Rick Santorum announces his candidacy for president in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, on Monday.
June 6th, 2011
01:16 PM ET

Santorum could siphon off religious conservative support from GOP field

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor

(CNN) -  Rick Santorum appears to face long odds in the race for the White House, but he threatens to siphon off religious conservative support from better known GOP candidates like Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Jon Huntsman and Tim Pawlenty during the primary season.

Santorum, a former U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania, officially launched his presidential campaign on Monday.

Influential conservative Christian activists mention Santorum, businessman Herman Cain and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann – who hasn’t yet declared her candidacy - as Republican White House contenders who could attract major evangelical support, even if they’re long shots for the GOP nomination, let alone the White House.

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“I don’t see a candidate that has Huckabee’s skill in being able to communicate with evangelical language and style,” says Gary Marx, executive director of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, which focuses on issues important to religious conservatives.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a Baptist minister who rode evangelical support to a win in Iowa and a handful of other states in the 2008 primaries, has announced he’s not running for president this time around.

“Rick Santorum and Herman Cain and Michele Bachmann would really be the ones to potentially ride that wave,” said Marx, speaking of evangelical voters, who accounted for 60-percent of primary voters in Iowa and South Carolina during 2008's GOP primaries.

But Marx said one person could change all that: Sarah Palin, who would be expected to pick up huge support from religious conservatives should she enter the race.

The former Alaska governor has repeatedly spoken about her opposition to abortion since she was the Republicans’ vice presidential nominee in 2008 and has been an enthusiastic combatant in the culture wars.

Richard Land, who directs public policy for the Southern Baptist Convention, the nation’s biggest evangelical denomination, said that many conservative Christians recall Santorum as their chief ally in the Senate until 2006, when he lost his Pennsylvania seat.

Santorum, a Catholic, made fighting abortion rights and opposing gay marriage key parts of his Senate tenure. He also argued that faith had an important role to play in government and discussed his and his wife’s decision to home school their children, a practice supported by many evangelicals.

“Evangelicals have made him an honorary evangelical,” said Land. “He walked the walk. When no one else would carry our water in the Senate, he would. If evangelicals rally around him he has a shot because they love that guy.”

The leading Republican presidential contenders all face stumbling blocks with the party’s social conservative base.

Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, once supported abortion rights, while some evangelicals are wary of his Mormonism. Huntsman, who has not yet declared his candidacy, is also Mormon and angered religious conservatives by signing  a civil unions law for gay couples when he was governor of Utah.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s three marriage are a stumbling block to his attempts to connect to so-called values voters.

Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, meanwhile, is an evangelical whose anti-abortion stance is a key part of his message. But Pawlenty hails from outside the Southern evangelical tradition that has produced Republican politicians like Huckabee and George W. Bush.

Of course, Santorum comes from outside that tradition, too

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Politics • United States

soundoff (126 Responses)
  1. Lenny Pincus

    A large part of the Republican Party are these Christian Conservatives. They also control the grass roots Republican organizations, part of a take over that began in the 1970's. I really don't understand how a news organization is unable to recognize this. Believing that they are on a mission from God–like the Blues Brothers I guess–is what motivates to a great extent Santorum and Palin supporters. It certainly isn't their intelligence.

    June 7, 2011 at 6:15 pm |
  2. Drew

    I dunno, what about Santorum's "google problem?"

    June 7, 2011 at 2:11 pm |
  3. Mary

    I think that Santorum would love to establish a theocracy here in the United States. I really don't care whether a candidate is Christian, Buddist, atheist, or whatever. There is only one issue that matters: individual liberty.

    We voters in Pennsylvania once threw this religious nut out of the Senate. I was hoping I'd never hear his name again.

    June 7, 2011 at 12:06 pm |
    • Sandra

      I agree with you Mary he really got nerve I for one will not vote for him .. Say no to Rick Santorum I remember once listening to him about raising the retirement age to 73 or even higher I thought not every hardworking man/women is pushing a pencil or sitting behind a desk what about all the hard laborers that bust there a*** that turned me against him immediately glad we got rid of him here in pa!!

      June 8, 2011 at 1:39 am |
  4. RightturnClyde

    The more I read the "Belief" BLOG he more I see that it is not about God or Christianity but about politics. All of the writers want to talk about is politics. One day they talk about Mormons in politics and the next it is about the Christian right voting bloc. Another time it is about whether Obummer is a Muslim or the political nod for a Mosque (in NYC or Tennessee .. wherever) ... it's always about politics and elections and elected officials. The BLOGgers intercept "pending approval" any comments they do not like and censorship is broader than mere sanitizing of words. SO (actually) this BLOG is phony. It is if not about "Belief" I do not doubt that politics, mundane and dirty, makes a livelier discussion than discussions about belief. Belief can be hard to discuss since A can believe a tree is god and B can believe a shark is god.

    June 7, 2011 at 12:05 pm |
    • BG

      I should add that CNN appears to have more than its share of trolls that take advantage of these things.

      June 7, 2011 at 5:33 pm |
  5. Cynic

    Santorum is a goof-ball who published a piece in a Catholic journal blaming Massachusetts liberalism for pederasty within the Boston Catholic clergy.

    June 7, 2011 at 12:02 pm |
  6. Reality

    Why the Christian Right no longer matters in presidential elections:

    More wasted speeches!! Why?

    Once again, all the conservative votes in the country "ain't" going to help a "pro-life" presidential candidate, i.e Mitt Romney, Jon Huntsman, Michele Bachmann, Tim Pawlenty, Herman Cain, Ron Paul or Rick Santorum, in 2012 as the "Immoral Majority" rules the country and will be doing so for awhile. The "Immoral Majority" you ask?

    The fastest growing USA voting bloc: In 2008, the 70+ million "Roe vs. Wade mothers and fathers" of aborted womb-babies" whose ranks grow by two million per year i.e. 78+ million "IM" voters in 2012.

    2008 Presidential popular vote results:

    69,456,897 for pro-abortion BO, 59,934,814 for "pro-life" JM.

    And all because many women fail to take the Pill once a day or men fail to use a condom even though in most cases these men have them in their pockets. (may it should be called the "Stupid Majority"?)

    (The failures of the widely used birth "control" methods i.e. the Pill and male condom have led to the large rate of abortions ( one million/yr) and S-TDs (19 million/yr) in the USA. Men and women must either recognize their responsibilities by using the Pill or condoms properly and/or use other safer birth control methods in order to reduce the epidemics of abortion and S-TDs.)

    (Currently, a perfect birth control barrier system does not exist. Time to develop one! In the meantime, mono-ma-sturbation or mutual ma-sturbation are highly recommended for hete-rose-xuals who need a contraceptive. Abstinence is another best-solution but obviously the se-x drive typically vitiates this option although being biological would it not be able to develop a drug to temporarily eliminate said drive?)
    ============================================================================================

    June 6, 2011 at 11:57 pm |
  7. Eliteamericans

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TuSqsopQEF0&w=640&h=390]

    June 6, 2011 at 11:44 pm |
  8. Marie Kidman

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aGSvqMBj-ig&w=640&h=360]
    _

    June 6, 2011 at 8:58 pm |
  9. Rush Limbaugh's Favorite Animal P0rn DVD

    Are those presidential candidates on the Right, or is that a carnival freak show? Very hard to tell the difference.

    June 6, 2011 at 7:57 pm |
  10. sdowst

    If this guy was any more right-wing we would all be goose-stepping down Main St.

    June 6, 2011 at 7:09 pm |
  11. Topkatt

    Ummmm a frothy candidate!!!

    June 6, 2011 at 7:08 pm |
  12. Frogist

    Wait, did I read that right? Evangelicals support voting for a Catholic? Doesn't that go against the whole idea of the evangelicals only voting for their own? Of course, imho it doesn't really matter what label you put on it. Wacky is still wacky. Maybe Santorum just out-wackied the other wackos.

    June 6, 2011 at 5:56 pm |
    • Peace2All

      @Frogist

      Hey -CK...

      As for the 'main' issues that are so important to the Christian Right, i.e... -0- abortion, oh heck... you know all of their main arguments, in 'general' they are all pretty much the same.

      So, not surprising that 'if'... they (christian right) want 'any' chance of winning and... getting their agenda moved forward, then they will go with whatever candidate seems to best fit said social/religious agenda.

      Hope that you are well, Frogist...?

      Take care,

      Peace...

      June 7, 2011 at 11:22 am |
    • Frogist

      Hey Peace2All:
      I'm doing alright. Hope your doing just fine, SM!
      I realize evangelicals as a voting block will gravitate towards certain subjects. I just never thought they would overlook the Mormonism/Catholicism/Otherism that was such a stumbling block before. Kinda looks like they either consider these others Christians just like them OR they are ignoring the religious background of the candidates and voting on issues. Hey it kinda looks like progress!

      June 7, 2011 at 1:01 pm |
  13. Frogist

    One comment... One single comment... the t!tle containing the words "santorum" and "siphon" just made me want to throw up a little...

    June 6, 2011 at 5:26 pm |
    • Oso

      LOL

      June 6, 2011 at 6:09 pm |
  14. palintwit

    Sarah Palin believes that santorum is something you spread on your toast.

    June 6, 2011 at 4:13 pm |
    • The Brady Bunch Chainsaw Massacre

      That's not true! Sarah Palin does not even know what toast is.

      June 6, 2011 at 7:54 pm |
    • Paul Revere

      Sarah honey. They're coming to get your guns, my dear.
      Does that ring any of those bells in there ?

      June 6, 2011 at 10:49 pm |
    • Sarah Palin

      Toast is a continent, isn't it?

      June 13, 2011 at 11:43 am |
  15. xRedfoxx

    Actually most conservative Christians will be supporting Ron Paul who is a devout Christian and a big supporter of religous freedom and homeschooling.

    June 6, 2011 at 4:01 pm |
    • John Richardson

      That'd be funny!

      June 6, 2011 at 7:39 pm |
  16. Barking Alien

    I am hoping Santorum siphons off all of the Religious conservative nutcases so that real candidates can be voted on by the remaining rational voters.

    June 6, 2011 at 3:58 pm |
    • George Guadiane Austerlitz, NY

      Due respect to "Rational Republicans," but do you think there are enough of them to get a candidate on the ballot who would not be shot down by even the furthest "Right" of all independents?

      I think (OK, HOPE) that "Rational Republicans'" biggest problem is the TEA Party movement and their "my way or the highway" mentality. It seems that they would rather have another Obama term than allow a "weak" Republican (RHINO) candidate on the ballot.

      June 7, 2011 at 9:42 am |
    • gerald

      Ah yes anyone who is religious and republican is a nut case. Lots of understanding and dialogue gets going that way.

      June 7, 2011 at 2:44 pm |
  17. Jeb

    Santorum is interested only wants to shove his religion down the throats of freedom loving Americans.

    The people of Pennsylvania had the good sense to kick him out of office once he revealed himself to be a radical nut. The American people wouldn't elect him to be dog catcher.

    June 6, 2011 at 3:53 pm |
    • Jethro

      Obviously you're not familiar with the people of Pennsylvania. Look up the platform of Pat Toomey. Then research what Bob "Monobrow" Casey has done for us. The split in Pa. politics is often referred to as the "T". Pittsburgh and Philly vote predominately D, the rest of the state (the "T") votes R.

      Our politics in Pa. are just as f'd up as anywhere else. Santorum was doing ok until he stepped on his own dick. Casey was voted in primarily because his dad used to be a popular governor, and Toomey is the favorite son of the T, just another froth-mouthed R just like Ricky S is.

      June 6, 2011 at 4:09 pm |
  18. Tom

    Why is it he is ready to lead now, but 5 years ago he was defeated because he could not do anything for us in Pennsylvania?

    June 6, 2011 at 3:39 pm |
    • abnguy504

      Santorum was one of the better senators from PA. He always responded when e-mailed or called. He visited every county in the state. You knew where he was coming from and was honest. Very rare traits in a politician. Our current senator who replaced him is either invisible or camoflaged as no one has seen him.

      June 6, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
  19. George Guadiane Austerlitz, NY

    Santorum said "Obama wrecked our economy"

    Anyone, ANYONE, ANYONE who thinks there is even one scintilla of truth to that statement is a mouth breathing MORON.

    If you were to say he has not helped as much as you would like or he has not made the changes you think are best...

    TONS of things one could say, some/many I might agree with, But, given the economy that FORMER (thank God) President Bush handed over to President Obama and the obstreperous Congress he is trying to work with, it is impossible to give any educated credence to Mr Santorum's statement.

    June 6, 2011 at 3:35 pm |
    • Lycidas

      Don't forget that their was a Democratically dominated Congress spanning between Bush and Obama that didn't do much to help out. Odd how some ppl forget the Dems in Congress not really doing anything.

      June 6, 2011 at 3:38 pm |
    • Frogist

      The more extreme the rhetoric the more people will stand up and pay attention. It's Reality tv politics we have, and primarily from the GOP. It's sad that the loudest most obnoxious people are considered the frontrunners for candidacy in the GOP. Palin and Trump know how to do that all too well.

      June 6, 2011 at 5:50 pm |
    • George Guadiane Austerlitz, NY

      Lycidas;
      I would agree that many Democrats went along with some of the things that the Bush administration wanted.
      I would point out that most of that was related to the "War On Terror(ism)." Not that SOME Democrats wouldn't have gone along, but a lot of those got caught in the "UnAmerican" trap. Fearful of being seen as unpatriotic if they failed to support the efforts of a President "protecting a country under siege."

      June 7, 2011 at 9:35 am |
    • Mary

      How quickly the GOP would have us forget that TARP was passed on Bush's watch.

      June 7, 2011 at 12:08 pm |
    • Lycidas

      I see my little copycat is posting again. Strangely, that post is one I would have made. hmmm.

      June 7, 2011 at 5:34 pm |
    • Khaos

      Sounds like you need to change your name then, if you are who you say you are.

      June 7, 2011 at 5:37 pm |
  20. DS

    What's in a name?

    Santorum: http://www.spreadingsantorum.com

    June 6, 2011 at 3:23 pm |
    • palintwit

      Here at the Palin residence we spread santorum every chance we get.

      June 6, 2011 at 4:01 pm |
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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.