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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. mrgmorgan56

    Yes, the weak minded always band together and shout the rallying cry, why use common sense and reason when fantasy will suffice". Santorum will never be President. He is just too out there for the American people to be comfortable with him.
    .

    February 9, 2012 at 11:40 am |
  2. Paul Wlliamson

    Rick is coming from behind.....watch out, hold your pants on tight! Rick knows all about Sodomism, he reads the Bible.

    February 9, 2012 at 11:39 am |
  3. CoJo

    in case you haven't heard about what the conservatives (lead by Santorum/Bachmann?) are trying do dictate. Search the issue about a business deal between Ellen DeGeneres and JCPennies. Draw your own conclusions.

    February 9, 2012 at 11:37 am |
    • TRH

      And JCP stood their ground as they should have. Had they bowed to "the million mom's" and fired Ellen I believe JCP would have filed for bankruptcy within a year.

      February 9, 2012 at 11:41 am |
  4. Hypatia

    Ricky is just another Ayatollah.

    February 9, 2012 at 11:35 am |
  5. TRH

    "compassionate conservatism"

    This pretty much defines the term "Oxymoron."

    February 9, 2012 at 11:33 am |
    • Ran

      Gold Jerry! Gold!

      February 9, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
  6. TRH

    11. The above list of ten makes him a dangerous man. He should not be running for ANY office but of course he has that right.

    February 9, 2012 at 11:32 am |
  7. scott

    I don't get all the negative postings, the guy sounds refreshing. His life actually demonstrates that he's got morals, is a family man, and that he's got solid values. Why all the flack when most other leaders in this country talk this way but don't live it? It sounds like the guy is actually walking the walk ...

    February 9, 2012 at 11:30 am |
    • Gfoos

      thats great, he'd make a fine neighbor, but what does this do with being president? Too churchy!

      February 9, 2012 at 11:34 am |
    • LinCA

      @scott

      You said, "the guy sounds refreshing."
      The guy is a bigot and a moron.

      You said, "His life actually demonstrates that he's got morals, is a family man, and that he's got solid values."
      Actively working to deny his fellow citizens equal protection and equal rights isn't moral. To call him a despicable piece of shit, would be an insult to shit.

      You said, "Why all the flack when most other leaders in this country talk this way but don't live it? It sounds like the guy is actually walking the walk .."
      There are plenty of bigots in public office, we don't need another.

      February 9, 2012 at 11:36 am |
    • Z

      Scott, he advocates rewriting all laws to be based on religion. This includes censorship of everything that doesn't meet the 'Biblical' standards, which means movies, news, internet..anything that doesn't reach the 'religious' test should be banned. He's been quite open about this and it is no different than Sharia law...just his version of it.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:10 pm |
  8. Ed Zachary

    He's a home schooler too? Just another way that he's way out of the mainstream in this country, and another good reason to not vote for Santorum.

    February 9, 2012 at 11:29 am |
  9. SAC

    I take great offense that religious conservatives think that they have a monopoly on "true" faith. Get over yourselves and realize that your arrogance is actually one of the biggest insults to the state of grace.

    February 9, 2012 at 11:28 am |
    • Hypatia

      So true! wouldn't it be nice to watch him turn into a pillar of salt or a bleached bone mid-speech?

      February 9, 2012 at 11:37 am |
  10. Carol

    Any father would go see a sick daughter, so why is this a huge issue? Santorum is a fanatic. Does he know more than scientists who have been studying our climate? What qualifies him to declare global warming as a hoax? He's right up there with Sarah Palin, poor guy!

    February 9, 2012 at 11:27 am |
    • rick santorumtwit... America's favorite frothy one

      Santorum and Palin were neighbors in the same trailer park.

      February 9, 2012 at 11:29 am |
  11. ourjungle

    Religious conservative voter,your faith is not worth a nickel cent,when you put forth the likes of a Sinners Anonymous poster child to carry the Conservative banner of Family Values....because he is a good speaker. Conservative family values should never be up for sale to the highest bidder,and/or best silver tongued devil.

    February 9, 2012 at 11:23 am |
  12. ProgressiveMike

    Would love to see a Santorum-Obama matchup. We'd finally get to see how viable evangelicals and the rest of the right wing are in a presidential election. Bring it on. Let's have the entire argument out in the open from here til November.

    February 9, 2012 at 11:21 am |
  13. JWR

    These so-called "faithful" should pick up a bible and diligently study what God says. Because someone says they believe in God means absolutely nothing, it's just lip service. Many of these "counterfeit Christians" have shown their opposition to God's word and will by their actions. IMO they are all idol worshippers bowing down at the sign of dollars. In just about every instance they oppose the teachings and wisdom of God Almighty.

    February 9, 2012 at 11:20 am |
    • Ran

      I love it when church people condemn other church people. There is something very telling about it. It makes me smile.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:17 pm |
  14. DaveSEMass

    Just what we need – another anti-science clown like Bush. Having a great cutting edge economy means more jobs in high tech which means embracing science, not being hostile to it. There is no way this guy should hold any public office.

    February 9, 2012 at 11:20 am |
  15. We were warned

    "Mark my word, if and when these preachers get control of the [Republican] party, and they're sure trying to do so, it's going to be a terrible damn problem. Frankly, these people frighten me. Politics and governing demand compromise. But these Christians believe they are acting in the name of God, so they can't and won't compromise. I know, I've tried to deal with them."

    -Barry Goldwater

    February 9, 2012 at 11:19 am |
    • Carol

      You are right and it is very frightening!

      February 9, 2012 at 11:29 am |
    • Ed Zachary

      Amen brother! Put the preachers back in the pulpit and leave the stump to the politicians.

      February 9, 2012 at 11:32 am |
  16. Kay

    This guy is American Taliban and would be right at home in Afghanistan or Iran, but if that's what the religious nutters want, by all means, they can vote for him. He'll get annihilated in the general election because most people in this country know it would be the end of America as a free country if he made it to the White House.

    February 9, 2012 at 11:19 am |
  17. rick santorumtwit... America's favorite frothy one

    Seriously, who would vote for a guy whose name has become synonymous with anal foam? A walking, talking freak of nature who brings a dead baby home to sleep with?

    February 9, 2012 at 11:18 am |
    • basketcase

      Frothy mix, not foam. Get it right.

      February 9, 2012 at 11:45 am |
  18. Johnnnn

    Do the faithful he sounds like apple pie, to the rest of us he sounds like the harbinger of Sharia Law in America.

    February 9, 2012 at 11:12 am |
  19. stevorino1

    Republicans sound like a bunch of spoiled brat rich kids wanting to have EVERYTHING they see in their pile or they will scream and make potty.

    February 9, 2012 at 11:11 am |
  20. TomGI

    Terrific attributes, still don't want him as president.

    February 9, 2012 at 11:01 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.