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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. Knucklehead

    2, 7, 8 and especially 10 are why he scares the bejeezus out of me...

    February 9, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
  2. open400

    Santorum is so harping about the Catholics and contraceptives. We Catholics treat contraceptives like we treated "No meat on Friday". There is also a church teaching about "Thou shall not kill" – maybe Santorum should remember that when he talks about Iran and using a preemptive first strike against Iran. He says he is Pro-Life, but talks about reforming Medicaid that will throw thousands of poor kids of medical care. Speaking of poor children, Using contraceptives might mean less poor children and more planned pregnancies. Santorum wants to stop contraceptives in America. That's easy for him to say. He will never become pregnant! Santorum wants America to become another India – thousands of poor children running in the streets without food, shelter and medical care.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
    • helen1233

      Exactly – well said

      February 9, 2012 at 12:09 pm |
  3. doubleday

    So...since when is sticking your head in the sand and ignoring science considered a good thing? Guess smart people won't be voting for Santorum.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
  4. Cedar Rapids

    Funny but most of the reasons given as reason to vote for him I see as reasons not to vote for him.

    February 9, 2012 at 11:59 am |
    • doubleday

      damn straight.

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

      I agree with you! Ignoring science in and of itself is a good reason not to vote for him.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:03 pm |
    • M Starks

      I just love the term "compassionate conservatism." I'm sorry, just what is compassionate about a bigot who legislates against families who are different from his own? And where's the compassion for the poor, unborn children once they are born into poverty and no one wants them...then they grow into adults who suckle off the teat of society their whole lives. Compassionate my rear-end. Compassionate as long as you're white, Christian and agree with everything he does.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
    • Peter

      "Home schooling" and "challenging science". Now, THERE'S a combination!

      No way. Not a big Obama fan, but this guy is WAY out of the mainstream. A creepy mix of religion and politics. No way.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
  5. rm

    What's a 'religious editor'?

    Exactly how do you 'fact check'?

    rm

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

      The Bible or Glenn Beck.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:03 pm |
  6. Bob

    He sounds like a good man, and isn't a flip flopping fake like Romney or a sleazebag like Newt. HOWEVER, I have always sided with Republicans on their economic views but I just don't get why gay marriage and abortion still have to be such big issues. Gays should be allowed to get married and women should have the right to choose, attacking planned parenthood is no solution. I just wish we were past this garbage, adn he is very misled by religion in this sense.

    February 9, 2012 at 11:58 am |
  7. qwerty

    Number 10... really?

    "Challenging" science means coming fourth with your own evidence... research... anything at all really. Not just calling what the overwhelming majority of actual scientists and people who know what they're talking about a hoax.

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

      See #4....he gets his science (and history, and probably math, too) from the Bible.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:02 pm |
    • justrelax

      hmmm...The overwhelming majority of scientists at the time opposed Galileo, so majority rule is not a valid argument for evidence based research, but I agree with you that evidence is necessary. So I give you one: irreducible complexity.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
    • Peter

      Just Relax: Yes, challenge conventional science all you want, just produce evidence. Until then-sorry-I'm not ready to join The Flat Earth Society.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:11 pm |
  8. d

    Reason #1. He will attack Iran. #2. He hates gay people. #3. He'll increase deficit to pay for bombs to destroy muslim nations. #4. He is in the Israeli's back pocket. #5. He has a s hit eating smile. #6 He will attack Iran. 7. He will attack Iran. #8.He will attack Iran. #9. He will attack Iran. #10. He will attack Iran.

    February 9, 2012 at 11:58 am |
    • MDSON74

      Sounds like you've got it all figured out.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:08 pm |
  9. MikeRavens71

    santorum is a joke

    February 9, 2012 at 11:58 am |
  10. CoJo

    what Santorum/Bachmann and the conservatives seem to be missing is that they are free to choose their belief system. They are even free to get on a soapbox and scream about it all they want (not in front of my house please). The are free to "educate" followers that are willing to follow them. But they should not restrict the exact same freedom from others they have. The fact that they try to restrict or dictate or dislike (I'm not going to use the "H" word) is what makes them look like bigots. If they are willing to state for the record that they are not going to force their life style on others, then I would retract my bigot statement and wish them well. But not before then. Until then, they sound like Reverend Terry Jones (is that good or bad?)

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

      by the way, I expect the same from all politicians, not just republicans...

      February 9, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
  11. clearfog

    He could play Uncle Fetus in Addams and Evves Family Values.

    February 9, 2012 at 11:58 am |
  12. Liz

    A catholic religious wing nut in the office is the worst thing for not only the GOP but for the entire nation. The president is supposed to protect our freedoms but he'd just limit them according to his beliefs. Freedom of Religion means more than just protecting religious organizations but also protecting others from the beliefs of that organization.

    February 9, 2012 at 11:58 am |
  13. dreamer96

    Before I listened to these latest round of Conservative Religious GOP candidates I never knew just how much of a male chauvinist Jesus was...Huh I never would have thought of the son of God as such a chauvinist before....

    February 9, 2012 at 11:57 am |
    • MDSON74

      What?

      February 9, 2012 at 12:10 pm |
  14. idiocracee

    religion has no place in politics.

    February 9, 2012 at 11:57 am |
  15. Ms Winston

    How about this one? He wants to control the private lives of all Americans, whether they agree with him or not, and most social conservatives feel the same way.

    February 9, 2012 at 11:57 am |
  16. Dave

    YEAH, the universe is 6,000 years old, and this idiot is running for president! Too much home schooling

    February 9, 2012 at 11:57 am |
  17. thatoneguy

    Wow, that is just sick! Love Santorum!?! Have you ever Googled what "Santorum" means? You all can keep that frothy mix to yourselves...

    February 9, 2012 at 11:57 am |
  18. Nathan

    Oh my, he doesn't believe in evolution. That is a killer to me.

    February 9, 2012 at 11:57 am |
  19. bsmoot

    RIck Santorum just stated that President Obama is "deliberately underlying religious liberty in this country, undermining the family in this country." I don't believe this is true. I do believe that people like Rick Santorum, who have much to gain and little to lose, need to assess what is politically wrong with this country, leave the religious debate out of American politics (faith is personal, not political), and show us how they will lead us away from this fear-based, hate-filled messaging that is in such direct conflict with the religious and family values he states are the basis of his platform. Lead by example, Mr. Santorum, and then I will listen to your message.

    February 9, 2012 at 11:56 am |
  20. Ghost

    For a man representing the party of personal freedoms (gun ownership, freedom from taxation, etc), he's awfully mixed up in other people's business. Unless he's gay, gay marriage shouldn't really concern him. Unless he's a woman, a woman's right to access to birth control shouldn't concern him. Same for abortion. What Rick knows is being a white, male, right winger. He doesn't - and shouldn't be allowed to - speak for women, minorities, gays, the poor. In short, he may be a "good man," as some have stated, but he is not a good candidate for a country that elects its representatives "of the people."

    February 9, 2012 at 11:56 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.