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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. D

    I never thought I would see the day where a loud and proud bigot actually the momentum in a presidential race.

    Its unbelievable and absolutely pathetic.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:14 pm |
  2. Grady

    The sign of the fish doesn't always mean you are getting the best deal.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:14 pm |
  3. Xman

    Mixing religious extremism (no, I don't mean the types to blow themselves up in crowded marketplaces) with political leadership is a pretty slippery slope, and the best reason why not to vote for guys like this. The current GOP is a cesspool of special interest, selfishness, religious zealotry, and hollow rage (think Tea Party) that likes emotionally charged gatherings solely because like being angry... at what, they don't know, but it's fun to them. If this is the best the GOP can put forward (because Mitt and Newt are terrible also), the GOP has never left the brink despite their numbers in the House, and they absolutely deserve to fail. We need candidates that actually matter. We have none.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:14 pm |
  4. Razgovory

    I don't think his Catholicism will help him that much. Back in 2008 one of the preachers close to Mr. McCain, John Hagee, was shown to be a rabid anti-Catholic. I suspect a significant number of the Protestant Evangelical vote doesn't trust Catholics much. I doubt this will change much in the future. Especially with the increasing ire toward Hispanics in Conservative circles, who are mostly Catholic.

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

      Separation of Church and State is alive and well. And American culture is truly about electing people who aren't going to tell me what to do in my life. That disqualifies most if not all of the clowns in the GOP candidate cesspool .

      February 9, 2012 at 12:15 pm |
    • Dana

      I agree that his Catholicism won't help him that much, but not for the reasons you mention. It's the evangelicals that love this guy. The conservative and liberal Catholic vote will cancel each other out.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:18 pm |
  5. Dana

    What I like about Santorum is that he understands that social conservatism and fiscal conservatism largely goes hand in hand. It's not possible to have small government without strong families and communities. We have to take care of each other, or else the government will do it for us. Rick gets this. Some of his views are too conservative for most of the US, just like some of Obama's are too liberal. But that's what "checks and balances" are for, and it works pretty well.

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

      and if he gets his wish to outlaw b irth control and half of America is working for minimum wage with 8 kids, do you think he will have one of them over for lunch?

      February 9, 2012 at 1:36 pm |
  6. Niel

    number one reason for Santorum to be nominated as Republican candidate: It will be a cakewalk for Obama. I don't expect a sane person to vote for Santorum. Only religious fascist and people who hate Obama just because he is Obama, will vote for him. The problem is that we have millions of both kind of persons.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
  7. expert

    love Santorum? eww...

    February 9, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
  8. Mark from Canada

    I'll give you one reason – not ten: 1. Religious
    That explains everything and it is scary, sad, and a reality of the dysfunction of American politics. Only a matter of time before the US runs short on the hey day of its resource boom and the reality of its political dysfunction hits home.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
  9. us1776

    10 reasons to love Santorum:

    1. I'm Gettin' My Religion All Over You.
    2. I'm Gettin' My Religion All Over You.
    3. I'm Gettin' My Religion All Over You.
    4. I'm Gettin' My Religion All Over You.
    5. I'm Gettin' My Religion All Over You.
    6. I'm Gettin' My Religion All Over You.
    7. I'm Gettin' My Religion All Over You.
    8. I'm Gettin' My Religion All Over You.
    9. I'm Gettin' My Religion All Over You.
    10. I'm Gettin' My Religion All Over You.

    .

    February 9, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
  10. sherri

    what a tool.he was born 100 years late.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
  11. E to the E

    This article is an editorial written by a religion editor. Bottom line, the Catholic white right loves this guy because he is a puppet to their beliefs. His views are too far right (as detailed above) to hold the middle and is not electable in a general election. Obama would love for him to win the nomination. Many Catholics don't like Mitt because he is a Mormon, but they will tell you other reasons (Since it isn't PC).

    February 9, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
  12. bob

    Vote for Santorum and watch your Social security dissolve into the corporations.

    Your choice.

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

    Why is this the cnn.com top story? news please

    February 9, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
    • no

      This if anything should prove to be why he wont be our next president.... How dumb can u be to believe stories written by man over solid scientific proof

      When will we move past religion and pull our heads out of the sand

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

    Almost all of these are great reasons on why NOT TO vote for Santorum. Challenge Science? What a joke...he talks into a microphone, uses a computer and the internet, relies on modern medicine...yet he challenges science? It should read..."Denies all science that disagrees with his religious presumptions....and wants to teach science denial to our children".

    February 9, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
    • dare777

      Exactly, the main reason for separation of church and state is so that no one persons or groups beliefs can be imposed on the population. I could not care less about how devout he is considering I am a Republican Atheist, the party has been corrupted by religious right. The republicans have been about FISCAL conservative efforts and not social efforts, as there are a ton of religious people on the left as well.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:18 pm |
  15. RAYINNJ

    Santorum stated he doesn't "check his religion at the door" while in political situations. Perhaps he shouldn't if it's used SOLELY as a guiding principle "personally" – but NOT as a means to subjugate the rest of America to "worship" or believe HIS brand of religion! He stated he'd bring this into the White House as President. So, what's next with him and his VP Michelle Bachmann – Inquisitions? Would they allow firings due to "heresy"? It's fine and admirable he's a God-fearing man – good for his personal life and his church – but these folks are like the Zealots described in the Bible who would eventually turn out to be the American version of the Taliban! They would be likely be the cause of an Armageddon due to their staunch opposition to anything Muslim and I can see his rhetoric causing international incidents and putting American lives abroad in jeopardy. If he wants to convert all of us, perhaps he should run by Bishop and leave the Presidency alone!

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

    Hey CNN, how about 10 reasons to fear a Santorum America

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

      They are the same 10 reasons listed in the article.

      February 9, 2012 at 1:23 pm |
  17. anonymous

    Why do religious conservatives love Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum?..

    because they are idiots

    February 9, 2012 at 12:11 pm |
  18. GD

    I agree with what everyone is saying. The question is why he is doing so well in the primaries. Is the far right pulling for him because of his hard line stance on fringe social issues? Or do voters just not like Romney/Newt? Either way, this does not bode well for a republican defeating Obama in the next election.

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

      He is doing well in the primaries because the outcome is CONTROLLED (i.e.fixed) by the Republican party.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:18 pm |
  19. Sam2012

    Man! sometimes I wonder the conservatives in the country has brains or not. Third world country citizens are better than some of these morons

    February 9, 2012 at 12:11 pm |
  20. Ugh

    Summary:
    1. He has a family (so does Obama)
    2. He's insensitive
    3. He's anti-education
    4. He's devoutly religious
    5. He's not Mormon
    6. He hasn't cheated on his wife (neither has Obama)
    7. He's anti-abortion
    8. He's anti-love
    9. He's against AIDS (so is... everyone else)
    10. He's proudly ignorant of science

    So, the actual positive qualities are pretty much universal... and the others are downright loony. Great post.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:11 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.