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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. Monique Manna

    So we should love him for the wayhe became rich also? Wasn;t there an ethics charge brought against him for lobbying after he lost the Senate in 2006, by a very LARGE number, didn't he get hi almost 700K house in virginia through a Mortgage Company he had dealings with in Washington DC? Insider indeed he is... Mr. Perfect isn't that perfect do your other research folks! It is funny, the media bashes a man for his fortunes and explains to US why OTHERS don't trust him, well please show both sides of Mr. Romney, you know the side that most people don't see unless we do our research. I am a Mitt Romney supporter and I am PROUD of it!

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

      Mitts a flip flopper he will say whatever to make himself look good.

      Santorum is not Mr perfect you are correct but neither is Mitt.... They are politicians at they end of the day they are all corrupt on some level.

      Just got to pick your poison

      February 9, 2012 at 12:27 pm |
  2. ECONOMY

    I like Santorum I feel he is an honest stand up guy that fights for what he believes in. The only problem is I really dont care about most of his views. Pro gay or anti gay really dosent matter to me and the same with abortion. What people want to do or believe is fine by me I really don't care. That is what America is about choice and freedoms, so who cares whether your gay or want an abortion. It shouldn't effect another individual. People have rights and choices leave them be.

    The only thing I feel strong about is creating a better job market and a better economy and Santorum is all about manufacturing here in America. Focus on the economy and the safety of this country. This should be the number one priority for all candidates.

    Rick just stop going ultra Jesus on everyone and be strong about your economic views because they are very good.

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

      No one cares what you have to say if you can't punctuate correctly. See, this is the problem with homeschooling.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:44 pm |
    • ECONOMY

      Sorry Professor Darren... I will punctuate better next time.

      February 9, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
  3. vdanker

    # 7 and #8 cancel # 9, and #11 reason I like him will be "...has no chance of becoming President"

    February 9, 2012 at 12:20 pm |
  4. lisbeth

    Comedy gold. You can not make this type of stuff up, people.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:20 pm |
  5. anthony stark

    Science challenges itself over and over again. If the data changes the science is refuted. What you really mean is that he's not afraid to ignore science.

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

      Makes you wonder who is responsible for screening articles before they're published. I taught English Composition and would not let my students get away with sloppy writing or thinking.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:23 pm |
    • Dustin

      Thank you! I can't believe that in this day in age, it is a badge of honor to ignore science. What the hell is happening to this country?

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

      As a Christian he is not opposed to Science...the scientific method developed out of mid-eval europe and thus a very Catholic view of the world...namely God has designed the Universe, therefore the universe can be known by intellects...science and religion go together believe it or not.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:28 pm |
  6. David

    Why should religion come into this whatsoever? There should be a clear separation between church and state; articles like this are just further preventing that from happening

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

      Amen.

      Sorry – had to do it. Well said, David.

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

      Religion comes into it because voters want it to come into it. The first amendment ensures that the State can't tell religions what to do, it does not state that a candidate must leave his religion at the door when making decisions.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:23 pm |
    • Alverant

      @Bill, it also means religion can't tell government what to do. But that's exactly what Santorum wants to do, use religion to dictate government policy and to force it on the lives of millions who do not share his religion.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:30 pm |
  7. Switters

    This man used his influence to get the hospital to allow him to take his newly born – but deceased – child home with him – so his other child could 'spend time' with their brother.

    What kind of a 'sick freak' is this man......?

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

      His son did not die immediately upon birth. They were allowed the few hours he was alive to bring him home to spend time with the family.

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

      You think his family, his children do not have the right to mourn in the way they feel is best? Its idiots like you who make me increasingly impatient with a certain sort of liberal.

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

      The kind of sick freak that passed a dead baby around the family and then slept with it (with his wife) throughout the night.

      The kind of sick freak we don't need as our President.

      This list was nothing but 10 reasons why he shouldn't be President. Religion needs to stay out of politics.

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

      What would you rather have happen? Would it have been better, in your mind, to just toss the baby in the incinerator and burn it up as if it never existed? Taking that baby home was no different than the funeral home coming to get a body for a funeral, which by the way, they had later that day after the family had acknowledged that they had a child who had died. The whole incident is really none of anyone's business and should have never even been reported. That is the ultimate in invasion of privacy!!

      February 9, 2012 at 12:33 pm |
  8. Montello

    Rick Sanctimorum truly scares me. Every time he opens his mouth and mixes his version of religion (no room for any one else's beliefs) with politics, I have horrible visions of Obama winning another term. Not that Romney thrills me, and Gingrich is positively frightening. We're doomed no matter how you look at it.

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

    I so want a (another) president who would rather play make-believe than consider empirical evidence...

    February 9, 2012 at 12:18 pm |
  10. AmericanSam

    Yeah, I don't doubt that Rick Santorum is a nice enough guy, I just think his ideas are bad.

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

    You know, the Taliban believes that they are on a mission from God also. Scary stuff this.

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

      Jake and Elwood.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:30 pm |
  12. Elliot

    This is what happens when a liberal instead of a moderate gets elected from the left, than the right feels like they have to retaliate with the most brain dead religious candidate they can come up with just to annoy the left and the cycle will continue. Why can't the right or the left just get some level headed person in the whitehouse that will at least try to work with both sides?

    February 9, 2012 at 12:18 pm |
    • anthony stark

      Yea, Obama's such a moderate it's not even funny. Far lefties would love to smack him around but he's too busy playing nice with conservatives and getting sucker-smacked so he doesn't have the time. Your point is mute because Obama is the moderate you've been asking for, painted as a liberal by Fox News.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:25 pm |
    • MaxPower

      Obama is not a liberal.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:27 pm |
    • Alverant

      Obama has been trying to work with the political right for the past 3 years! It's the political right who doesn't want to work with the President. They would rather see this country destroyed than help him.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:32 pm |
  13. D man

    Reason #1: They think the earth is 5000 years old and we rode dinosaurs with saddles.

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

    Santorum has zero chance of being President of the United States of America. Appealing to the far right ensures that he appeals to nobody else.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:17 pm |
    • Peter

      I agree. His creepy mix of religion and politics plus his stated desire for the USA to bomb Iran right away will pretty much seal his fate.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
  15. MITT ROMNEY

    So he is running for office but all we are hearing is not what he would do to balance the budget, reduce the deficit or create jobs for starters but rather how he would end what we all know as seperation of church and state. All these GOP mentally deranged presidential candidates are startiing to become very irritating with all their self rigghteous religios garbage. Enough is enough! I hope you religious freaks all get together and drink Kool-Aid and do American a very well deserved favor. Lunatics!

    February 9, 2012 at 12:17 pm |
    • MarylandBill

      The first amendment says you can't force other people to be part of your church. It does not say, and has never said that the religion of politicians (or Americans as a whole for that matter) cannot influence decisions and laws of public policy.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:28 pm |
  16. lisbeth

    All this article says is that 'religious conservatives' like Rick Santorum as a candidate because he is a big hypocrite, just like them.

    Too much trashy hypocrisy in this world to have it sitting in the White House too. Santorum is a RIDICULOUS candidate, GOP.

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

    Remember this Religious Right?

    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 12:17 pm |
  18. Bob Dubang

    A religion editor recommending a political candidate? Top news story? Is this Fox?

    February 9, 2012 at 12:17 pm |
    • lisbeth

      This is the most ridiculous article I've ever read at CNN.

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

    I love how challenging science is a pro on the list. Dear God, save me from your followers!

    February 9, 2012 at 12:17 pm |
    • Andrew

      Isn't *science* all about challenging science?

      February 9, 2012 at 12:24 pm |
    • Alverant

      Andrew, yes, it means presenting evidence to challenge existing scientific thought. But religion never provides evidence, just opinion and an unwillingness to listen to the answers science gives to their questions.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:34 pm |
  20. Ed in Mass

    How can you expect me to love a candidate that has threatened to nullify my legal marriage of 5 years?

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

      Don't. It's that simple. He is a horrible candidate except for those who expouse the same slim list of values that would largely alienate the majority of our US population. Not saying he is a bad man, despite the fact that I don't buy into Christian mythology, but he is a bad candidate to represent the majority of Americans and their values.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:23 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.