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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. DarthWoo

    Another reason to love Santorum: If we could all live in his fantasy world, everyone would have the money to go out and buy an iPad (at way higher than MSRP to boot) on a whim.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:16 pm |
  2. That guy over there

    The CNN main page shows the headline "10 reasons to love Santorum". Then, you are redirected to an editorial page belief blog with the headline "10 reasons religious conservatives love Rick Santorum"

    Poor journalism CNN.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:16 pm |
  3. melnla

    That's all this country needs... a President who looks to the sky for answers!! It's unbelievalbe that in this day and age an educated-someone still does not believe in evolution! That's frightening!

    The Republican circus act consists of a Jesus Freak, a Washington crony, a corporate crony and Ron Paul.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:16 pm |
  4. Jan

    Yes, $77,000 thousand dollars of homeschooling paid by the taxpayers of allegheny county while he and his kids lived in Virginia. We booted him out – He is the quintiessential earmarked washington insider.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:16 pm |
  5. acts 431

    Being a Roman Catholic means he is NOT an evangelical Christian. American so-called Christian voters are so desperate that they are ready to label anybody a Christian, so they can have a candidate they feel good about.

    - Ask Santorum if he prays to the Virgin Mary or any of the "saints". If so, he is not a biblical Christian.
    - Ask Santorum if he believes that Mary remained a virgin all her life. If so, he is not a biblical Christian.
    - Ask Santorum if he believes the Pope is infallible. If so, he is not a biblical Christian.
    - Ask Santorum if he believes there is a "time out" place between heaven and hell called Purgatory. If so, he is not a biblical Christian.
    - Ask Santorum if he believes that priests are forbidden to marry. If so, he is not a biblical Christian.

    Being a good church-going, moral person does NOT make an individual a biblical Christian. Read Mark 10:17-31. Get to know your Bible!!!

    February 9, 2012 at 12:16 pm |
    • DarthWoo

      Just another demonstration of why it is ludicrous to put stock in any of it.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:18 pm |
    • denver2

      I get that pretending Catholics aren't Christians is part of America's cultural heritage but you have to admit it is pretty silly. Catholics and Protestants alike believe in the divinity of Christ. The rest is details.

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

      It's in the fiction section of your local library...

      February 9, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
  6. denver2

    I'm sorry I live in a time and place where "questioning the theory of evolution"- the single most irrefutable scientific theory in existence- is a good thing in the eyes of voters.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:16 pm |
  7. DudeDad

    11. His elevation as the GOP candidate guarantees an Obama victory in 2012.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:16 pm |
  8. Kiki

    He has my vote, its about time we have a true leader who doesnt cower to popular perversion and political correctness.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:16 pm |
    • denver2

      Because the biggest problem you confront on a daily basis is a social proscription on the open use of prejudiced terminology.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:18 pm |
  9. MJBillings

    In a broader sense, the real problem with having the leader of the free world be a Ric Santorum is the narrowness of his pattern of thought. His faith comes first. We had W and look where that got us. I grant you, Ric is much much more intelligent but there is still a narrowmindedness that just niddles at my inner self. He would be representing a very diverse culture with such a narrow vision. enough with the narrow stuff. I like him. He seems like one of us. If he could just look beyond his own soul and respect the differences.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:16 pm |
  10. crtny

    Sounds like Saudi-Arabian esque theocracy but with permeating Catholic values. Besides the actual religion, I don't see the difference if he is to be elected.

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

    The door begins to squeak though it has opened only a crack.
    A tiny shaft of light enters into the darkness.
    Thus begins the newest episode of "INNER SANCTORUM."
    BaBummm BaBummm
    Rick is excited, kind of like an Alter Boy the first time a Catholic Priest takes a liking to him.
    Where will it lead?
    Along the Yellow Brick Primary Road where he must continue to fight off the challenges of the mean, the spiteful, the dishonest bad people ..... or ..... will his door suddenly SLAM SHUT in his face again?
    Does God know the answer?
    Many Catholics seem to think so!
    The same Catholics who support a church that condoned child molestation for centuries.
    The same Catholics who took their lawsuit money & now are able to finance the republican Catholic of the month.
    What does the future hold?
    Tune in next week (or tomorrow) for another episode of "INNER SANCTORUM."

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

      Brilliant take on the manner in which the media handles the spin. Thanks for the really great graphic.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:22 pm |
  12. Mike

    Ask Rick why he charged the Penn Hills PA school district (where he owned a home that he never lived in) for the online ( home school) education his kids received when they were living in Virginia. Maybe because he couldn't get VA to pay $73,000?

    February 9, 2012 at 12:15 pm |
  13. Michelle

    I would vote for Rick Santorum. We need a good Christian Leader with good family values.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:15 pm |
    • D man

      What happened to seperation of church and state? You want to be like Iran?

      February 9, 2012 at 12:16 pm |
    • RAWoD

      We need a president. We don't need an alter boy.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:18 pm |
  14. Nick

    I don't believe in mixing religion with politics.. unless you like Iran. I believe strongly in the freedom of religion, but not creating laws based on one religion to rule the majority. Religion unlike spirituality utilizes fear as its main push for obedience.. the fear of hell, but it coincidentally pushes the religious followers to judge others negatively because they are not like them. Fear is at the heart of this.. and if you do believe in God you would know that God is love, and showing love, compassion and patience is following in the footsteps of Jesus Christ. Don't let fear rule your life!

    February 9, 2012 at 12:15 pm |
  15. Acroyear

    I don't want this man as President of the US for the very same reason I don't want Iran to have a nuclear weapon...I don't want a religious fanatic who puts his person faith ahead of reason and science to have his fingers on a weapon of mass destruction!

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

      Well said.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:16 pm |
  16. glorydays

    Oh give me a break. These folks are beyond "belief"... It's like the Palin voodoo fest.

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

    The good people of Pennsylvania threw this man out of office with the largest percentage defeat of a sitting US Senator in US history.

    The 'takeaway' is: Once you get know him – you will not like him

    February 9, 2012 at 12:14 pm |
  18. Chris

    I am from Pennsylvania and one of the reasons Santorum got crushed in the 2006 Senate race was that PA voters got to know the real Santorum. He is an extremist with crazy ideas. The thought that this man could be President would make me move to another country.
    He doesn't believe in contraception, evolution, is incredibly anti-gay, made many racist comments and is just plain wacky.
    Don't be fooled by his working man persona. He is dangerous!

    February 9, 2012 at 12:14 pm |
  19. Dance This Mess Around

    Can i hire a lesbian to beat him up ?

    February 9, 2012 at 12:14 pm |
  20. zapper45701

    My religion is not his religion. My rights as a woman are secondary to his male dominance on my reproductive choices. He wants to know what goes on in my (and your) bedroom. He places his religious belief system in opposition to science. I'm not interested in what he's "not;" I'm interested in what he "is." And seven kids? To each their own, but I'm not interested in reality tv. Thumbs down on Santorum

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

      You just nailed it. These are the reasons why he will never be elected. Period. Thanks.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:28 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.