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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. myweightinwords

    You know, I'll give the man kudos for going home to be with his sick child.

    That does not, however, excuse him from the hurtful and cruel stands he makes on the issues of ho.mo.s.exuality and women's health.

    Our country is not a theocracy and we can not allow our government to be co-opted by any particular religious s.ect.

    February 9, 2012 at 10:57 am |
  2. Christina

    He sounds like a stellar guy. Too bad he's trying to push Catholic doctrine on everybody else through the law. It's not his call to outlaw contraceptives for everybody. That's an infringement on my first amendment rights to freedom of worship. I'm quite sure if he gets the republican nomination that his fanatical stance on contraceptives and women's health in general will end up costing him the election itself. That's because not all women are able to have children naturally. This man belongs in church not in the political arena.

    February 9, 2012 at 10:54 am |
    • Sue

      Re "He sounds like a stellar guy", Christina, you really need to get your hearing checked.

      February 9, 2012 at 11:00 am |
    • Global Traveler

      Stellar guys don't try to disenfranchise an entire segment of the population because of their own bigotry.

      I'd like to see him be a stellar guy. As in shot out into orbit never to be heard from again.

      February 9, 2012 at 1:00 pm |
  3. rick santorumtwit... America's favorite frothy one

    He's on a slippery slope. Made slippery from his own anal discharge.

    February 9, 2012 at 10:48 am |
  4. NJBob

    Conservatives favor Santorum because, like them, Santorum is mentally ill and intellectually challenged. Simple-minded attracts simple-minded.

    February 9, 2012 at 10:47 am |
  5. Dave3000

    This country has far more serious issues then trying to appeal to Bible Thumpers... You know who they are... so-called Evangelicals... many who have been crap all their life and suddenly discovered God and now think they have "the way" for all of us...They don't want to move the country forward...They want women barefoot and pregnant so they can take us all back to the 18th century...Their plan for America's foreign policy is based on their belief in the "End Times"...This is a sick group, no better then the Taliban, and now they think they have found a leader in Santorum...No thank you...I will be proud to vote for President Obama...Not everything he has done has pleased me, but he is far more in touch with reality.

    February 9, 2012 at 10:47 am |
  6. Bryce

    Can we just add Romney being a Mormon to the top of the list. That's the real reason that nobody seems to be talking about. Evangelicals hate Mormons for some reason. If Mitt weren't a Mormon he would have already wrapped up the nomination. I'm a little tired of the bigotry.

    February 9, 2012 at 10:45 am |
  7. TG

    The above differences shows a ' divided household', with one candidate for abortion, while another against it, one candidate who shows a high regard for marriage while another does not. Even when Barack Obama was elected, he won with 63 million votes as opposed to 57 million for John McCain.

    Jesus said: "Every kingdom divided against itself comes to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand."(Matt 12:25) The United States is fracturing and has been doing since almost its inception as country in 1783, with the legislative arrangement of Democrats and Republicans that later followed.

    Only God's kingdom is a truly united government, in which the 144,000 chosen as "kings and priests" from the earth (Rev 1:6; 14:4), are totally in harmony with their Creator, Jehovah God. These "cast their crowns before the throne, saying: "You are worthy, Jehovah, even our God, to receive the glory and the honor and the power, because you created all things, and because of your will they existed and were created.”(Rev 4:11)

    Thus, by means of this united heavenly government, will the earth also become a paradise, in which genuine peace will be forever, for Psalms 37:11 says that "the meek ones themselves will possess the earth, and they will indeed find their exquisite delight in the abundance of peace." Jesus reaffirmed this, saying: " Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth."(Matt 5:5, King James Bible) At that time, no national boundaries will ever exist again.(Dan 2:34, 35)

    February 9, 2012 at 10:42 am |
  8. Larry in Houston

    I've noticed that when I talk to "Republicans" – They don't like to be reffered to, as "Republicans" I'm a Kennedy Democrat – so that being said, It's like "If you can't get a full loaf of bread, then you will gladly accept and bring home 1/2 Loaf" My sister was offended, when I reffered to her as a "Republican" – She told me that she would rather consider herself – a "Conservative" So, that being said, I refer to her as my "conservative" sister. So she & I get along great now.

    February 9, 2012 at 10:41 am |
    • StuckInTX

      I consider myself a "Conservative" but definitely not a RepubliCANT... they say they stand for less govt, less taxes, family values, etc. at the Nat'l level. Problem is Reagan doubled the deficit, then we had 'read my lips" HW tax increase, Gingrich's ethics violations, conversion to Catholicism (politicall motivated I'm sure) and so on. Not exactly a stellar history.. Not to say the DEM's are much better. The current list of CLOWN candidates doesn't stand a chance in Nov, and honestly.. what is a GOP POTUS going to accomplish with a DEM controlled Senate?? It will be even worse if they lose their 25-seat majority in the house.

      February 9, 2012 at 10:56 am |
  9. sck

    Most of these can be summed up by saying: Rick Santorum wants to undermine our Republic and get as close to a real Theocracy as possible.

    February 9, 2012 at 10:36 am |
    • CoJo

      and he does not see that as a bigotry view point. His religion or get out of country, period. No freedom of choice. Or I should say, yes you have freedom of choice, his (and the conservative group) or get out. There's the two choices

      February 9, 2012 at 10:41 am |
    • Damian

      True ........and very scary. I don't get overly religious people and further more who in their right mind would actually believe 90% of what is written in the bible? Seriously it was written by man and full of "Stories" . It's ludicrous that people let it rule their lifes and decision making.

      February 9, 2012 at 10:42 am |
    • Jilli

      I agree CoJo – I see the same issue with the recent debate on contraceptive coverage. the catholics don't have a problem imposing their religious beliefs on non-catholic employees, but yet they scream religious liberty when, as insurance providers, they're held to the same laws as every other business. It's hypocrisy. They're showing no concern that they're imposing their religious beliefs on others – because that's what's right in their opinion.

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

      There is no greater human presumption than to read the mind of the Almighty, and no more dangerous individual than the one who has convinced himself that he is executing the Almighty's will.

      This is what we have to look forward to with Santorum

      February 9, 2012 at 10:49 am |
  10. Reality

    Only for the newbies:---->

    Why the Christian Right no longer matters in presidential elections:

    Once again, all the conservative votes in the country "ain't" going to help a "pro-life" presidential candidate, i.e Mitt Romney, Newton Leroy Gingrich, 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/choice BO, 59,934,814 for "pro-life" JM.

    And the irony:

    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. (maybe they 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.

    February 9, 2012 at 10:31 am |
    • Damian

      I'm pro-choice but at the end of the day I am not basing my vote on this ..........economy 1st!!

      February 9, 2012 at 10:48 am |
  11. Patrick Lewis

    I love when "compassionate conservatives" want to stamp out AIDS in third world countries but don't think we should stamp it out HERE FIRST. Maybe because that's because teh gehy and junkies are sinners and deserve to meet God's judgement quickly or just the fact that clean needles, resolving poverty issues and handing out rubbers is icky. Either way, deal with America first, not just the little brown people that make you feel good on pennies a day.

    Oh and homeshcooling makes your children only as smart as you are, tempered by how good a teacher you are. I'm smart enough to know that I'm a terrible teacher. My kid will get a good education from someone more qualified but overseen by me.

    February 9, 2012 at 10:29 am |
  12. Tea Party Dem

    chances are he will only bow to the One.

    February 9, 2012 at 10:28 am |
  13. David McFarland

    Home schooling is a positive thing??? Most people I know that were home-schooled are extremelt nieve and unsocialable.

    February 9, 2012 at 10:28 am |
    • Name*Reid

      By your spelling, it appears you were not home-schooled.

      February 9, 2012 at 10:32 am |
  14. txwoodworker

    After all, if God thought carbon emissions were bad she'd have built cows that can't fart. LOL

    February 9, 2012 at 10:24 am |
  15. stanton

    He tells them what they want hear!!!!! just like all REPUBLICAN POLITICO'S HAVE FOR THE LAST 30= years!!!!and the next thing these religious zealot's will want to do put camera's in everyone 's bed room so they can drag you and your wife out in the middle of the night and burn you and her at the stake!!!! because you did something the holy roman catholic pedophile church dose not approve of because it said so in their version of the Bible!!!!!

    February 9, 2012 at 10:23 am |
    • Name*Reid

      Your extreme comments destroy meaningful dialogue.

      February 9, 2012 at 10:27 am |
    • Damian

      You may have a point.

      February 9, 2012 at 10:50 am |
  16. lisbeth

    So, according to this article, Santorum is also morally superior because he would repress women and gays.

    February 9, 2012 at 10:17 am |
    • Nick

      It also seems to assume that all faithful feel that way which is an insult to people who consider faithful (may be more than these morons as they follow christ's teachings not some organized church).

      February 9, 2012 at 10:21 am |
    • chefdugan

      Lord save the country from this right-wing radical who can't wait to stick his nose into other peoples private business. Fortunatly, this jerk doesn't have a chance of getting elected.

      February 9, 2012 at 10:23 am |
    • Damian

      He's a total @hole.

      February 9, 2012 at 10:52 am |
  17. Thinking

    Keeping morality in America's culture cannot be compared to countries who govern by sharia law. Morality is not something that is going to hurt people it actually protects.

    February 9, 2012 at 10:16 am |
    • Fallacy Spotting 101

      Post by "Thinking" is an instance of a Loaded Language fallacy.

      http://www.iep.utm.edu/fallacy/#H6

      February 9, 2012 at 10:31 am |
    • Huh?

      "Fallacy Spotting 101

      Post by "Thinking" is an instance of a Loaded Language fallacy."

      This is another instance of Stupidity Posting fallacy.

      February 9, 2012 at 10:37 am |
  18. lisbeth

    How will Santorum's inclination to "challenge science, questioning the theory of evolution and dismissing global warming" effect our kids' educations if elected? Will he be banning books, shutting down natural history museums, limiting medical science based on his own sect of religion? If that is a selling point – he should lay out how far he is going to push his own religion on the rest of the country...If that is a selling point, what about the separation between church and state?

    February 9, 2012 at 10:13 am |
    • James PDX

      He already stated that he thinks all civil law should mirror biblical law, so he's already told us how far he will try to force his religion down our throats.

      February 9, 2012 at 10:16 am |
  19. stanton

    He tells them what they want hear!!!!! just like all REPUBLICAN POLITICO'S HAVE FOR THE LAST 30= years!!!!

    February 9, 2012 at 10:10 am |
    • Name*Reid

      Would you admit the Obama has failed on many of the promises made during his campaign?

      February 9, 2012 at 10:30 am |
    • StuckInTX

      Name*Reid – on some yes. But not all. It's real hard to do anything when you have half on Congress blocking anything you try to do, and their objective in life is to ensure you are a one-term President. We ARE out of Iraq, getting out of Afghanistan and Bin Laden IS fish-food, and unemployment IS down.

      February 9, 2012 at 11:17 am |
  20. Rolph

    I think it's great that the church should dictate our life policies and decisions. That way we could bring back the dark ages, the crusades, over population and the plague.
    Than all the evangelicals would be happy and we would have many many dead christians we could send to heaven.
    These people better wake up to reality.
    Conservatism never did a single thing to benefit the overall population. Christians have never gotten over the crusades and are intent on converting everyone to their beliefs no matter how detrimental.
    Believe what you want just keep it to yourself. Do NOT give me your religion wrapped in politics.

    February 9, 2012 at 10:09 am |
    • Thinking

      So you believe those who who are religious should be killed? And you think they are the bad guys?

      February 9, 2012 at 10:19 am |
    • txwoodworker

      Right on. And they like him because he is a warmonger (can you say Bomb Iran?). These fools want to keep them alive in the womb so they can kill them later with cruise missiles, and they seem to be enamored with sucking air out of tailpipes. Neanderthals.

      February 9, 2012 at 10:21 am |
    • Fallacy Spotting 101

      Post by "Thinking" contains the Complex Question fallacy.

      http://www.iep.utm.edu/fallacy/#H6

      February 9, 2012 at 10:38 am |
    • Huh?

      "Fallacy Spotting 101

      Post by "Thinking" contains the Complex Question fallacy."

      Another post of Stupid Posting fallacy

      February 9, 2012 at 10:41 am |
    • Rolph

      Thinking isn't thinking.
      I didn't say I want anyone dead.
      It's their own policies and medevil
      thinking that will kill them off. Doesn't their god want to fill the heavens with fresh souls. Or was that the Marines?

      February 9, 2012 at 10:43 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.