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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. 60minuteman

    Didn't our founding fathers want church & state to be separated? I certainly don't want his church running my state.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:11 pm |
    • Erod

      One of the most misinterpreted intentions of all. The Founders didn't want the church to BE the state, a la the Church of England. Never did they intend it to be a non-factor; otherwise, they wouldn't have written the Declaration and Consitution with such deep religious overtones.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:26 pm |
    • Peter

      Santorum was SILENT when the Catholic Church was covering up all of those pedophile priests. For someone who sees themselves as a crusader for good, he evidently has a blind spot when it comes to his own religious leaders. Which is typical for a theocrat.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:44 pm |
  2. vg6

    can we vote for none of the above?

    February 9, 2012 at 12:11 pm |
  3. Mark

    It concerns me when anyone wears their religion on their shirtsleeves and uses religious gatherings for a photo op. We are a democracy, not a theocracy The President, Congress and the Supreme Court is charged with representing everyone equally. Santorum's public courtship displays with religious (Christian Evangelicals only) leaders basically say that the rest of you non-Evangelicals don't count...and are on a one way train to the pit of fire.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:11 pm |
  4. anthony stark

    Well, at least he's an actual conservative.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:11 pm |
    • Peter

      Too much creepy religion/political overlap for me.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:32 pm |
  5. Debra

    Reason # 11. Ignorance is bliss.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:11 pm |
  6. James

    Well besides the fact that he is a hypocrite. His daughter has a pre-existing condition but because he has platinum health care coverage form the government he doesn’t worry, but he wants the rest of Americas who have pre-existing conditions to be at the mercy of for profit health insurance companies that always deny coverage to them. I think he is evil.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:10 pm |
  7. elliott

    Wow, he's not afraid to challenge science? He's so brave!

    February 9, 2012 at 12:10 pm |
    • Peter

      Challenging science AND advocating home schooling. Yah, we're really going to beat the Chinese with THAT combination!

      February 9, 2012 at 12:38 pm |
  8. klangster

    what a crock here is all you need to know 1. he is a bigot 2. he is a bigot 3 he is a bigot..............................................

    February 9, 2012 at 12:09 pm |
    • colleen

      😦

      February 9, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
  9. Occupy Wall Street for senate 2016

    This is the american version of the TALIBAN.

    Be afraid.... very afraid.

    We should start talking about the religous right as a deragatory term

    February 9, 2012 at 12:09 pm |
  10. Rob

    Santorum= Totally ridiculous. straight from the dark ages... No wait, stone age... How can there be so many utterly ignorant people in a developed, educated country? Religion is a plague. A very profound, aberrant, state of denial.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:09 pm |
    • Erod

      Sure, that's why the most productive, accomplished, well-rounded, family-oriented, and refined people in the US are overwhelmingly religious people. And your types are smashing in windows at OWS rallies.

      Keep thinking this universe is all just a numerical accident. It's serving you well.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:21 pm |
    • Rob

      @Erod
      So you think you know me? You think you can pass judgment on me? Think you're better? Bloody hypocrite.
      Look at all the mindless violence religion has caused... I feel sorry for you.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:26 pm |
    • Rob

      @ Erod
      Not only that, Why don't you take all your well rounded, sophisticated, no brains you're talking about and go back to your flat earth beliefs. F... Moron.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:35 pm |
    • Peter

      Erod: OWS members are a very small group of whacks, just like some of the Tea Party folks who draw a Hitler mustache on a picture of Obama and say that he is a "Communist" (which is hilarious if you know anything about history).

      No, the problem in the USA are people like you who take the extremist elements on either side and try to present them as the mainstream representatives. Oh, and then presume that a poster is a member of the extreme faction! So tell me....how many conclusions are you going to jump to?

      February 9, 2012 at 12:36 pm |
  11. Real America

    Santorum would make a fine candidate. Unlike Romney he is a clear alternative to Obama. Vote for Rick in the primaries and give people a clear choice. Then vote for Obama in 2012.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:09 pm |
    • Ran

      Sweet!

      February 9, 2012 at 12:11 pm |
    • colleen

      Yes Agree 🙂

      February 9, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
    • anthony stark

      That works. Or Ron Paul.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
  12. Elliot

    He doesn't believe in evolution even though the catholic church does? That should say a lot, the man is a MORON or just pandering to the MORONS. The only reason he is in the game is because the caucuses are held at 7:00pm on weeknights and the only ones who make it out to vote are retired people who care more about what you are doing in your bedroom than your paycheck. The religious zealots create these fake wars on your religion and they all eat it up, they make the weak minded believe that if I'm in my home having non-missionary style intercourse that somehow that is going to ruin the country. It makes me so mad that the right has to focus on these social issues all the time, it pushes me and millions others away from your hair brained agendas. Fiscal conservatives unite against the small minded zealots!

    February 9, 2012 at 12:08 pm |
    • klangster

      yeah!

      February 9, 2012 at 12:11 pm |
  13. Meki60

    the number one reason to like Santorum is that he can defeat Obama

    February 9, 2012 at 12:08 pm |
    • TRH

      How?

      February 9, 2012 at 12:10 pm |
    • Elliot

      He won't have my vote and millions of other republicans who don't give a hoot about your pointless social issues.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:11 pm |
    • john

      delusions of grandeur....I like that in a Republican...it works...

      February 9, 2012 at 12:14 pm |
    • D

      In your dreams maybe. This guy would be worse then Romney or Gingrich and that is saying a lot.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:21 pm |
    • D

      Right on 12Purple, couldn't have said it better.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:26 pm |
  14. eric

    Wait number 8 is trying to ban gay marriage, and number 9 is "compassionate" conservative. LOL that dude going to get smoked in general election.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:08 pm |
  15. Raf

    Yeah, just who I want to vote for, someone who doesn't believe in evolution!

    February 9, 2012 at 12:07 pm |
    • NoRa

      ...and the world IS flat, and the sun DOES orbit earth ... He is scary! Back to the middle ages!

      February 9, 2012 at 12:11 pm |
  16. Dern Foley

    NEVER ONCE did he speak out against the heirarchy of church's looking the other way for years and years as the pedophile priests molested childern in their care......

    February 9, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
    • Ran

      Santorum just got schooled!

      February 9, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
  17. KMW

    I think Rick Santorum is great and plan to vote for him in our next election. I find him refreshing and feel this is what our country needs right now. I am sure my opinion is in the minority on this board but I do not care. I think most of the responders are extremely liberal and left wing.

    I agree with his values and principles and hope more Americans see the light. They may ridicule him and make fun of him but they are really very jealous.

    I love people who stand up for what is right and moral and do not care what others think. That is why I am for Rick Santorum.

    Go Rick Santorum 2012.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
    • colleen

      DITTO KMW :))))

      February 9, 2012 at 12:10 pm |
    • Dern Foley

      So, you'll "write-in" his name – instead of voting for the moron – excuse me mormon....?

      February 9, 2012 at 12:11 pm |
    • Fox me? Fox you!

      I love people that stand up for what is right too. That is why I shall fight against people like Santorum until my dying breath.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
    • clsjey

      I respect your opinion and applaud your non-vitriolic tone. I do, however, disagree with your assessment.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:14 pm |
    • 12Purple

      And how would you feel if Santorium was Muslim and wanted to take away your vote, driver's license and forced you to wear a burka?

      I believe you'll probably say it's not the same thing, but Santorum's pushing his religious beliefs of people not of his religion.

      THAT is why there is separation of church and state. You freely practice your religion, I have no qualms about that case. Elect Santorum and enact all the laws he wants and you will be forcing your religion on others. How is that constiutional?

      Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; ...

      February 9, 2012 at 12:19 pm |
    • J

      Agreed!

      February 9, 2012 at 12:20 pm |
    • gopack

      Oh he's refreshing if you consider the dark ages refreshing. He's more like the black plague of the dark ages.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:22 pm |
    • TgR

      Totally agree!

      February 9, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
  18. Tim

    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 12:06 pm |
    • Mike

      I'm also an agnostic but have nothing against organized religion. Why? Because I'm not close minded. I don't go to church but that doesn't mean I have any right to look down on those who do.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:14 pm |
  19. peg

    here is a fact check. not all santorum kids were homeschooled unless you count cyber school as home school. and cyber school stolen from pennsylvania while you live in virginia, at the expense of the pa taxpayers. just sayin.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
  20. Carlos

    "Santorum isn't afraid to challenge science." Wow.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
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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.