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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. Anomic Office Drone

    11. Liberals don't like him, and that's what matters more to hardline right-wingers.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:24 pm |
  2. Howard

    He a fanatic that is focused on only 2 issues- Anti Abortion and Anti Gay!

    February 9, 2012 at 12:24 pm |
  3. Sergio

    This man is a danger to the US his rhetoric has nothing to ask to the taliban and other religious extremist, the only difference is that he hides behind the cross and sweater vest....

    February 9, 2012 at 12:23 pm |
  4. Cradle Catholic

    These are the reasons that people can love and vote for Santorum, if the majority of people in this country has some character on them....or they can vote for a copy cat of Obama and get the same results we have now. It is your choice, the next step is; americans can emigrate to China when they are in need a job. How about that?

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

      So you still believe in fairy tales?

      February 9, 2012 at 12:33 pm |
    • Monica999

      And Mr Sanitorium is going to bring back the manufacturing jobs how???? by praying about it??

      February 9, 2012 at 12:38 pm |
  5. GCV

    Why is it that a message so hateful as Santorum's is so admired by the Christian right?

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

      Belief in fairy tales. I have concluded that "christian right" is an oxymoron just like Fox News.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:35 pm |
  6. notbobslc

    god forbid we get a Santorum presidency, he would use the new efforts at internet censorship to clear up the new definition of his name – robably passing a law to outlaw making fun of the presidents name!

    February 9, 2012 at 12:23 pm |
  7. jb

    He is cute but sooooo hateful and ignorant. Like a lot of men I has "been friends" with.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:23 pm |
  8. Babs

    When Santorum was on camera singling out black people on welfare I knew he was racist. And he has the nerve to call himself Catholic! I don't think so!!!

    February 9, 2012 at 12:22 pm |
    • Fallacy Spotting 101

      Post is an example of the No True Scotsman fallacy.

      http://www.iep.utm.edu/fallacy/

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

      To Fallacy Spotting: Dumb comparison!

      February 9, 2012 at 12:38 pm |
    • Monica999

      No Sanitorium fan here, but really...do you really think that there are no Catholic bigots? I thought bigotry was preached in the churches of america...anti-woman, anti-gay

      February 9, 2012 at 12:41 pm |
  9. Socrates

    Santorum, the Caveman.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:22 pm |
  10. Andrew

    I'm Agnostic, but I am thankful for the ethics, morals and values that Jewish and Christian religions have put into our culture. They have given us a free culture, and most people here use their freedom gained from it to spew hate at religions, and just Christianity really. It's coming from a person who thinks their educated, but really their just not their yet. The smartest people are Agnostics, because they know they don't know.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:22 pm |
    • James PDX

      On the flip side of that coin, Santorum is a perfect example of the religious spewing hate at those they don't approve of.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:32 pm |
  11. andy

    Wow, I see this silly op-ed as ten reasons NOT to vote for this neocon religious fool. He's a hateful and awful person, blinded by "religious values". I shudder to think of our great nation led by such a horrible man.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:22 pm |
    • Cradle Catholic

      The majority of people here is so brainwashed by the secular system, that they don't even know the difference between a genuine person and a performing clown. It is sad!

      February 9, 2012 at 12:31 pm |
    • James PDX

      What's the difference if the genuine person genuinely wants to spread hate and destroy our country by turning it into a theocracy?

      February 9, 2012 at 12:33 pm |
    • NotBuyingIt

      My thoughts exactly...

      February 9, 2012 at 12:36 pm |
    • Babs

      He's an embarrassment to the Catholic Church!

      February 9, 2012 at 12:40 pm |
    • RAWoD

      @ Cradle Catholic - did you learn to write from the nuns? The majority of the posters here ARE secular in nature.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:40 pm |
  12. RAWoD

    He needs to treat his religion as he would his "johnson". Be happy, even proud of it if you must. Just don't whip it out in public.

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

      You are awesome!

      February 9, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
  13. barbraS

    I don't want Sharia law and I don't want Santorum's messed up religious laws either. It's UnAmerican.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:21 pm |
  14. Henry

    OH...they mean the guy running for president...I thought...well never mind.

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

      Frothy?

      February 9, 2012 at 12:22 pm |
  15. Vic

    He has no chance in the November election. He might be appealing to some religious zealots, but that's about it. Just the religious zealots. What's with this religious nonsense. Aren't we supposed to have separation of state and religion?

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

      Yes. I believe the first amendment covered that. He is pandering to the small percentage of the crowd that believes in fairy tales. We need someone grounded in sciene, technology, and who lives in the 21st century.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:25 pm |
  16. max

    im not voting for a social conservative. i will vote for a fiscal conservative. guess that leaves out both major parties...

    February 9, 2012 at 12:21 pm |
  17. DKolo

    Why list ten issues when you can boil them down to three? 1) RELIGION (points 2,3,4,7,8,9 all come down to this) 2) He's not Mitt or Newt 3) He's a "compassionate conservative", meaning he doesn't blindly favor a small government, rather he wants it active in his chosen areas only. Note that Bush was a compassionate conservative, and Santorum is a strong believer on the Bush Doctrine on foreign policy. So, are we honestly considering electing another Bush?

    February 9, 2012 at 12:21 pm |
  18. FugginMorons

    He's a status quo plutocrat. Corrupt as the day is long.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:21 pm |
  19. Shane Chieopanich

    For me, its scary as hell to think that a presidential candidate can be in contention that isn't smart enough to realize that evolution has a much higher probability of being right than the Bible

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

      LOL, Shane, you obviously didn't get the memo that the earth is only 6000 years old

      February 9, 2012 at 12:28 pm |
    • Mendozian

      If you have not already, you should read the Bible...all of it and then compare the statistical probabilities of just the 48 prophecies pertaining to Christ's birth being correct, which they were, to the probability of evolution being correct. The former is 10 to the 158th power. Anything beyond 10 to the 50th power is deemed mathematically impossible.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:32 pm |
    • Scientist

      Maybe Santorum should take his campaign on a field trip to the Natural History Museum... I believe evolution is demonstrated pretty accurately there...

      February 9, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
  20. GCV

    Why is it that a man with a message that is so hateful is so admired by the Christian right?

    February 9, 2012 at 12:20 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.