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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. qwerty

    10 reasons why not everyone is suited to voting for the leader of the free world.

    February 9, 2012 at 11:56 am |
  2. Tr1Xen

    This guy is a religious nut who needs to be kept far, far away from the White House.

    February 9, 2012 at 11:56 am |
    • Pauli

      Rather have Santorum than Obama the socialist in the White House.

      February 9, 2012 at 11:58 am |
  3. andboomgoesthedynamite

    The fact that #8 is a reason to love him is kind of disturbing. It was once a felony for a white person to marry a black person, too. Is that something to love someone for?

    February 9, 2012 at 11:56 am |
    • Tr1Xen

      Agreed.

      February 9, 2012 at 11:56 am |
  4. Mike

    GOOGLE "SANTORUM"

    February 9, 2012 at 11:55 am |
  5. JohnRJohnson

    This article is nothing less than propaganda. Santorum is a theocrat. He willfully confuses his own peculiar religious beliefs with his political ideology, which is also confused. The only thing we know for sure that Santorum stands for is his religious conviction. Everything he says or does flows from that inflexible dogma. I don't care that he is a family man. I don't care that he does 100 pushups every morning. I don't care that he goes to church every day. The only thing I care about is whether or not he has the brains and judgment to lead the country during these very difficult times. He has neither.

    February 9, 2012 at 11:55 am |
  6. Jeremry

    Rick Santorum is a snake in the grass, slithering along waiting to bite the soles of the unfaithful. He is a very scary man who deserves nothing but to burn in the fiery pits he claims sinners will go to. His blatent refusal to accept all people and races is disgusting. His track record of being a "christian" candidate is shaky at best. It takes no more than 10 minutes of my time to google search his name and find more than 10 reasons to never vote for him.

    Rick Santorum is not a christian, he follows his own religion. The problem is that his followers and supporters hang on his buzzwords like they are the gold that he eats for breakfast every day.

    Rick Santorum is a vile demon who wants to destroy the US and is racist against barak obama because he is white.

    February 9, 2012 at 11:55 am |
  7. RonFromNM

    Santorum? Seriously? If he ends up being the Republican nominee, I'll hold my nose and vote for Obama instead of this clown who doesn't understand he and his religious zealots have no business in people's bedrooms, dictating a woman's choice and starting a holy war with Iran. And I really DO NOT like Obama.

    February 9, 2012 at 11:55 am |
  8. Brett

    In other words, if you love idiots, you will love Rick Santorum.

    February 9, 2012 at 11:55 am |
  9. The Don

    I am realy getting very, very tired of religion trying to take over the political scene

    February 9, 2012 at 11:55 am |
  10. BunnyBunny

    People keep getting God mixed up with Religion. Religion is man made. I believe in God. I do not believe in Religion, any of them.

    February 9, 2012 at 11:54 am |
    • Lee

      But which God do you believe in?

      February 9, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
    • pat

      They're both made up concepts. I love your name though.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
    • Tim

      Same here. Religious conservatives are a throwback to the middle ages and should be reformed. I don't believe in organized religion. I consider myself agnostic and I have peace and balance in my life. Notice how many religious conservatives are emotionally imbalanced and intellectually irrational people. Too bad.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
  11. Dan

    It never ceases to amaze me that Santorum can get up there and claim that Obama, personally, is destroying his family. In England you would go to jail for such libel. Further, Obama is probably the best Family Man we've ever had in the White House. He has a loving relationship with his wife and kids, there have never been accusations that he sleeps around or gets BJs in the oval office, he was never a coke addict or drunkard like Bush, and yet, despite being a model family man, conservatives can't come up with enough reasons to hate him.

    February 9, 2012 at 11:53 am |
    • BunnyBunny

      Exactly, you can tell Obama loves his wife and children. You can see it in his face when he looks at them. Great role model for the family.

      February 9, 2012 at 11:58 am |
    • DaveSEMass

      It drives many of them nuts that an African American, even someone of mixed origin, could and did achieve far more than they ever did or ever will. It turns their world upside down and they really can't cope. Had many of them studied harder in school (as Obama did), perhaps they, too, could have achieved more successes and not ended up so embittered.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
  12. Real

    And then there's the golden reason he should not be trusted or elected: He believes the Government's role is to control everyone's lives through legislation - in clear contrast to the purpose of this nation - making him unfit for office.

    February 9, 2012 at 11:53 am |
  13. Johnson

    He has so much more integrity than Romney does. We cannot trust a word Romney says and his theological beliefs border upon clultism.

    February 9, 2012 at 11:53 am |
  14. Joe

    I'm a catholic and very uncomfortable with too much religion in politics

    February 9, 2012 at 11:52 am |
  15. vel

    1. Santorum is a family man but he only wants to support his family, not anyone elses. He's pro-birth and anti-woman, not pro-family. Where's the support for children after they clear birth opening? 2. He's a liar about his claims about abortion. 3. He teaches lies to his children, homeschooling allows you to indoctrinate your children. He'll have a sad wake up call when they realize he's done this. 4. I love how evangelicals will flock to a Catholic but still claim that they are going to hell since they don't believe "correctly". 5, 6 Billions aren't Romney (oooh a Mormon!) or Gingrich, which ever religion he is this month. 7. Again, Santorum shows he's a liar and simply pro-forcing his religion on others. 8. Yep, dependent on forcing his religion on others, how truly unAmerican. 9. ROFL. Really, leading conservatives to poverty when trying to kill funding money for schools, public transist, etc. 10. And again, a lovely hypocrite who enjoys the benefits of the same science that shows that global warming is real and evolutionary theory is what fits the facts, not some magical god in teh sky that has no more evidence than Allah or Vishnu. Santorum, better give back those antibiotics that saved your daughter and just rely on prayer, right? Oh, I see, you can't. So much for your supposed "faith".

    February 9, 2012 at 11:50 am |
    • MJ Taylor

      Spot on, spot on.

      February 9, 2012 at 11:58 am |
  16. OnStreetWise

    Most things never change... When it comes to conservatism, it comes down to greed. Every one for themselves and it goes for the conservative evangelical double. Its a "Eat it and keep it too" mind frame world for the Neo-Con/Tea Bagger religious. Just like when the crowd asked; "Give us Jesus or give us Barrabas" when it comes down to money... Jesus, and all he stands for, gets thrown under the "Chariots"... Give us Barrabas!!! The most blood thirsty, greedy, hateful, lying, hypocrites on the face of the earth, is a RepubliCON.

    February 9, 2012 at 11:49 am |
    • ncsteve

      I guess that's why, across all income levels, they give more to charities than Democrats. Look it up.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:03 pm |
  17. CWickstrom

    What is Santorum's voting record – ON ALL ISSUES?

    February 9, 2012 at 11:46 am |
  18. clarke

    He is a good man, no question. But he brings to the table his religious beliefs, I have no problem with relious beliefs, I believe myself. When One is looking to seek being President of USA, one must look to the bill of rights and the consituation first, not your religious beliefs, You become the leader of ALL the people and ALL the people come from different beliefs and religion. What all the people have in common is the Bill of Rights and the consituation, not religious beliefs. I do not want my personal liberties or freedoms over shadowed by someone elses religious beliefs.. That is my right as a citizen of the United States of America.

    February 9, 2012 at 11:46 am |
    • Bravado in Boston

      I wish your words could be handed out to every person in the USA....and read aloud to them each morning. I wish more and more people could come to their senses and realize exactly what you so wonderfully typed.

      Sadly, i am afraid it will never be so.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:07 pm |
  19. ansrc

    I would agree that santorum is faithful, and that's a big reason I support him. I'm ashamed of the writer, though, and his attack on Romney's Mormonism. While I Don completely understand their religion, I can say that in all my business endeavours, every Mormon I have been around holds the utmost Christian and family values. Why do we (Christian) always attack so many other groups that we feel aren't being "faithful" the way we think they should be faithful?

    February 9, 2012 at 11:44 am |
    • Kalhoun

      Santorum is an uppity religious zealot. His mindset has no business in government. Luckily, he's unelectable except for the lunatic fringe who actually think his religious ideas somehow make him a good person (he's NOT. He's evil) or a better american (he's the dregs of our society). His little prayer circle make me puke a little i my mouth.

      February 9, 2012 at 11:55 am |
  20. Willie The Pimp

    AW hell NAW!!

    February 9, 2012 at 11:42 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.