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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. dreamer96

    Republicans like their women, uneducated, pregnant, raising the kids, and subservient to the men, and never questioning the men....

    February 9, 2012 at 10:06 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      That would be thanks to the word of God Himself.
      "Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor."
      I Timothy 2:11-14
      "Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church."
      I Corinthians 14: 34, 35

      February 9, 2012 at 10:09 am |
    • James PDX

      Doc, I can't figure out of you're trying to steer me away from Christianity or get me to sign up! 😛 (Don't tell my wife I said that – please)

      February 9, 2012 at 10:12 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      @James
      Of all the passages in the Bible, that one has to be one of the most ignored ones in my house!
      Independent, free-thinking women are way more fun than subservient girls. Not to mention more trouble.
      My wife is way more brash, out-spoken and tattooed than me and I wouldn't have it any other way.

      February 9, 2012 at 10:29 am |
    • LinCA

      Now, if you can get one of those independent, free-thinking women to role-play as a subservient girl, you will get the best of both worlds. 😉

      February 9, 2012 at 10:59 am |
    • AAAAA

      Dreamer...I like the effort in bashing republicans...and I too believe in Socialism...but that is not an arguement we wantto bring up....most of the domestic violence cases are done by men who tend to vote on "left" ... keep going – other topics to point out!!!!

      February 9, 2012 at 5:43 pm |
  2. Tea Party Dem

    what is interesting is that liberals are only now discovering all Christians are not Evangelicals!

    February 9, 2012 at 10:04 am |
    • Pointless inflammatory comments are fun

      Hooray!

      February 9, 2012 at 10:08 am |
  3. lisbeth

    What a platform – Homeschooling dad. If this becomes a selling point, isn't it saying that most kids in America who aren't homeschooled come from morally less superior homes? That's just a crock.

    February 9, 2012 at 10:01 am |
  4. mikithinks

    If the past can predict the future, a tour of England's churchs shows what will happen if we adopt laws that impose faith based conduct. There were church and convent ruins throughout the land. Art was destroyed, Clergy were killed. We can protect ourselves from what men do in the name of evil, but who will protect us from what they do in the name of good.
    The founders fled England in great part for freedon from the government's regulations of the way they lived their lives.
    Government should get out of our churches, our bedrooms, and our relationships, and get into the boardrooms. our schools, and our bank. That's were the job problems are.

    February 9, 2012 at 10:00 am |
  5. BunnyBunny

    We keep letting people like this become frontrunners, what will be next?
    Death for Adultery-(Leviticus 20:10 NLT)
    Death for Fornication-(Leviticus 21:9 NAB)
    Death to Followers of Other Religions- (Exodus 22:19 NAB)
    Kill the Entire Town if One Person Worships Another God – (Deuteronomy 13:13-19 NLT)
    etc etc etc

    February 9, 2012 at 9:58 am |
    • Tea Party Dem

      "God d@mn America"-"rev." Wright

      February 9, 2012 at 9:59 am |
    • Omrud

      I agree. We are making the same mistake that Afghans did 2 decades ago. Now we hate them and want to kill them.

      I am a conservative/republican, but I don't agree with this guy. We need to balance our thoughts, beliefs and position to win domestically and internationally.

      February 9, 2012 at 10:08 am |
  6. westward

    He's a 'family man'???????

    I was under the impression that all the candidates, arguably with the exception of Newt Gingrich, were 'family men'.

    February 9, 2012 at 9:57 am |
  7. James PDX

    The "faithful" favor Santorum because they never really believed in America. They want a theocracy for their God, just like Santorum said he does. Anyone who wants to instill ANY amount of religion into our government is NOT a true American.

    February 9, 2012 at 9:54 am |
    • Tea Party Dem

      including the religion of secularism.

      February 9, 2012 at 9:59 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      "Secularism is the principle of separation between government insti.tutions and the persons mandated to represent the State from religious insti.tutions and religious dignitaries"

      How exactly is keeping religion out of politics a religion?

      February 9, 2012 at 10:47 am |
    • NJBob

      @Tea Party Dem - I hate to interfere with your cherished illusions, but secularism is NOT a religion by any stretch of the imagination.

      February 9, 2012 at 10:51 am |
  8. Guest

    If they(Republicans) believe in less government, what will their job consist of?

    February 9, 2012 at 9:53 am |
  9. Tea Party Dem

    the welfare and commerce clauses precede the 1st amendment, and therefore take precedence.

    guess what comes after 1?

    February 9, 2012 at 9:52 am |
  10. glorydays

    It's quite easy to steer the simple folk away from REAL issues with emotion.

    February 9, 2012 at 9:47 am |
    • Tea Party Dem

      yup, gotta admit, axelrod is pretty shrewd

      February 9, 2012 at 9:57 am |
  11. Joseph Smith

    Global warming is a hoax but the Pope is the vicar of Christ. True, look it up!

    February 9, 2012 at 9:46 am |
    • Tea Party Dem

      only if the Univ of East Anglia says so.

      February 9, 2012 at 10:00 am |
  12. SCDad

    So Christians like him because he is an idiot?
    "Santorum isn't afraid to challenge science."
    I bet he lets doctors use science to heal his sick daughter. Hypocrit.

    February 9, 2012 at 9:40 am |
  13. GIJoe

    I refuse to have healthcare dictated by the POPE!

    February 9, 2012 at 9:40 am |
    • Tea Party Dem

      Sibelius is the Pope now?

      February 9, 2012 at 10:01 am |
  14. Bee

    Santorum's claim that President Obama is "ruining the family" is just one example of his total lack of understanding. He thinks in terms of black and white, no shades of grey, but most reasonable people recognize that the extremes are not the only positions available on controversial issues. His literal interpretation of "family" is outmoded, at best, and discriminatory at worst. Today there are all different "flavors" of family. Who is to say that one flavor is better than another? Santorum wants to set himself up as judge and jury. Who died and made him God?

    February 9, 2012 at 9:39 am |
    • James PDX

      It's easy to see things in black and white when you rely on a book instead of reason. It doesn't even matter if that book repeatedly contradicts itself.

      February 9, 2012 at 9:56 am |
  15. zip

    Ah, the home schooling lunatics. The earth is 6000 years old. No evolution. Science is bad. God help us if this gutter filth gets traction. Revolution, anyone?

    February 9, 2012 at 9:38 am |
    • Bee

      No need for name calling - but I agree with you on the total anti-science stance. Nothing wrong with home schooling as long as the kids are exposed to the full breadth of ideas.

      February 9, 2012 at 9:42 am |
    • westward

      'Homeschooling' is the new segregation.

      February 9, 2012 at 9:58 am |
  16. westward

    Most people don't call a candidate who gives the hard sell for war with a big goofy smile on his face 'compassionate', Mr. Gilgoff.

    February 9, 2012 at 9:37 am |
  17. fahrenheit 451 usedbooks

    By Faith they mean "Christians" because they don't consider anyone else as having any Faith! The Christian right zealots are bringing the Crusades back to a city near you in an attempt to squash Women's rights to choose, prepare for battle! The Conservative Christians have left the Holy Lands and are marching on Washington D.C. and are attacking women's rights under the guise of religious freedoms.

    February 9, 2012 at 9:37 am |
  18. Rich

    The faithful flock to Santorum because sheep travel in flocks.

    February 9, 2012 at 9:34 am |
  19. Rika33

    Wow – there are some real bigots and haters posting here. Mainly the same people who would be crying how offensive any negative comments about gays or pro choice are. The guy expresses his beliefs honestly – but some want to muzzle his speech so that they can push their own agenda. Neither issue matters much to me in comparison with the country as a whole – which is in trouble from spingle interest groups and a corrupt political system

    February 9, 2012 at 9:32 am |
    • rick

      i do not want to muzzle him. he is far too entertaining for that

      February 9, 2012 at 9:46 am |
  20. allens

    i know why there is a public backlash against religion. i even feel it sometimes. our country is secular. places like iran, saudi arabia, etc are not. that is one reason the west does not like them. yet here we are approaching the same thing or at least you would think that listening to the candidates

    February 9, 2012 at 9:31 am |
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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.