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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. Trololololo

    I have no idea if he's good with the economy and foreign policy, and I think his views are too extreme for about 85-90% of america. no thanks, rick.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:03 pm |
    • CoJo

      actually,Scott Pelley on CBSNews, did that last night. Not a bad summary list. And based on the list, not bad positions (except one). But his religous issue is the big negative.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:21 pm |
  2. Jolene

    So, CNN, when will we ever see a big story with the headline: 10 Reasons to Love Obama
    Oh, never, because CNN is pandering to the right?

    February 9, 2012 at 12:03 pm |
  3. Rick

    This man understands the importance of supporting Israel, the apple of God's eye. Our current administration has turned its back on its "friend" and encouraged the rest of the world to do the same. This list should include this, and should be 25 or 50 things we love about Senator Santorum.

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

      This man should support the well being of his country – not drag it into Mass by the hair and fling it on the altar.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
  4. God

    1 huge reason to not. Religious Zealot!

    February 9, 2012 at 12:02 pm |
  5. tyler d.

    enemy of science= enemy of mankind.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:02 pm |
  6. Epidi

    He should apply for election to be Pope – at least that'll keep religion out of politics.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:02 pm |
  7. jayh

    This article listed all of the reason this man is a complete moron. Except for the ones about him not being another moron.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:02 pm |
  8. mm

    S-C-A-R-E-Y!!!!!!!!!!

    February 9, 2012 at 12:02 pm |
  9. MikeRavens71

    Romney hasn't injected in faith into politics but Santorum has....that's why the religious conservatives are rejecting Romney a moderate....they want a right wing whacko like santorum to always talk about religion and god and bombing iran...what a joke

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

      Mike you arre the man. The author is an idiot who belongs in the middle ages with the pope and Galaleo.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
  10. ME

    That's all good, but he doesn't plan on doing a thing about immigration. This is the biggest threat to Americans today. Stop using our money to help other individuals from other countries. Santorum doesn't care about this with his millions in the bank, living in his mansion.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:02 pm |
  11. Charlie

    Really now? All I saw were 10 reasons to hate/oppose Rick Santorum.

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

      exactly!

      February 9, 2012 at 12:04 pm |
  12. qwerty

    I'm pretty sure the hot button issues of this election revolve around the economy... maybe our role in the middle east... not so much whats going on with abortions and the gays...

    February 9, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
  13. JustMe

    He's a crack-pot.

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

      I agree, he is a nut.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
  14. Belgian Girl

    I see there a lot of reasons to be afraid of Santorum.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
  15. MikeRavens71

    Santorum NEVER ran anything in his life......his career has been voting up or down on bills and adding pork in congress.......he has no plan for the economy and how to create jobs, he has no clue.......he thinks by talking all the time about abortion, the pill an GOd and religion that's going to win him the election.......what a crock!

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

      So, it's like we have now, except he has a conscience and morality?

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

      couldn't get re-elected in his own district so he thinks the whole country is going to choose him? who is going to vote for the one person in America who would take home a dead child so his living children can bond? weird is as weird does to paraphrase Mrs Gump

      February 9, 2012 at 1:30 pm |
  16. mm

    "Religion is sort of like a lift in your shoes. If it makes you feel better, fine. Just don't ask me to wear your shoes." ~ George Carlin

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

      LOL, that's great

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

    We must make sure that religious fanatics who (in his own words) "wish to impose Judeo-Christian 'sharia law'" on America do NOT make it into the White House. That is no place for a whack job. I agree with some of the replies here. If he thinks that "science is at odds with a Christian worldview", why is he so quick to rely on science and modern hospitals to treat his ill daughter. Take her to church and let the congregation "pray over her" so you can avoid that evil science. This guys is a throwback to the puritanical days or even moreso the Spanish Inquisition. No way do I want him as my president.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
  18. Jstic

    Santorum is not that far removed from the Islamic radicals who believe that religion should play a major role in government. This guy is way out of touch with main street America, his kids don't even attend schools that are sanctioned by the state he lives in. Santorum would be very bad for the majority of Americans, period.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
  19. Real

    The problem with these candidates is that all but one of them has this crazy notion that they're supposed to inject their own agenda and personal beliefs into the Presidency. For some reason, they think it's about them, rather than the people of the nation.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
  20. chris

    Just the (fact)that he has beliefs that he STANDS FOR upsets alot of people.especially the ones who want AMERICA the home of the ??????How did we get to where we are i might ask....Alot of people died so we could Burn???I dont think so,All those who do not believe just wait til election time!!!WOW

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

      no, the problem is not that his beliefs are different, it's that he and the conservatives what to dictate/force them on others. No freedom of religion choice.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
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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.