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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. Elliot

    Rick Santorum, please choke on a gay mans salami and die.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:27 pm |
    • Sonnie2

      You need to grow up. Take time to smell the flowers and ponder on who created them/

      February 9, 2012 at 12:33 pm |
  2. Bobby

    Where is my post? Ron Paul for president!

    February 9, 2012 at 12:27 pm |
  3. Frank Cardenas

    In other words, he's a fool just like them!!

    February 9, 2012 at 12:27 pm |
  4. jake

    I reason NOT to love Rick Santorum. He can't win. A vote for Santorum is a vote for Obama's second term. I'll hold my nose and vote for Mitt. Mitt is better than an Obama 2nd term.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:27 pm |
    • Sonnie2

      I happen to respectfully disagree with you. Miitt and Romney care make Mitt a RINO, Ie: not much differant than obama. On the other had Rick Santorum holds family values high and is against abortion (killlling of the defenseless ) and also is coming from a less money type than Mitt who will do anything to buy the right to be president. I think mitt is on an ego trip.
      And one more thing. Look how the Morman campains. It is with negitive adds and has yet to produce a plank to build his platform and so we don't have a clue where he stands or what he will do, other than to tear down others who are running for potus

      February 9, 2012 at 12:39 pm |
  5. Wes

    I not only question the ill behavior of a parent who brings home a stillborn to show the other children. It's not a matter of attacking someone who has had a personal loss, it is a matter of someone with this child abusive behavior who would be running this country.

    Millions of persons have suffered with deaths of all sorts in their families and millions realize their own grief is no excuse to forget how to parent wisely and moreover, millions realize the sick and twisted behavior it is to traumatize young children in unnecessary ways.

    Sometimes I wonder just how large a percentage of the population in the U.S. are really sociopathic drones to the horrific religion of Christianity which turns normally wise intelligent persons into mindless, cruel, and unfit parents.

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

      Ridiculous.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
  6. RweEqual

    WOW! Can they come up with there own idea or style without copying. Obama took a picture like this when he was running for President but he won. Santorum hasn't won anything he's short on delegates he needs to win the nomination. What ever happen to seperate church and state. This guys follows everything the church tells him to do. And for the record catholics don't have a good track record with young men or young boys for that matter.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:26 pm |
  7. mc

    Sure, we know he's a sick bigot and he's full of hate – but this: " science as being at odds with a Christian worldview"... yeah, that's JUST what America needs right now.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:26 pm |
  8. Person

    For anyone with more than 2 brain cells, this is a 10 point list on why not to love him.
    All I see in this list is hate, hate, hate.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:26 pm |
  9. dare777

    I love how all these articles act like the Democratic party is made up of Devil Worshipers. Get real. there are devout Christians in the Democratic party as well. This whole lets get religion into the political forum is asinine at best. There are decent people in all political areas so religion should not be a pre-req to hold political office. If anything it shows how dumb some of these religious nut-jobs are.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:26 pm |
  10. Holly

    I've always liked Santorum, but I just don't believe there's any way for him to beat Obama. The independents will not vote for him. Romney is the wiser choice if we want to get our economy back on track, and the independents will vote for him.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:25 pm |
  11. Rightster

    He's a warmonger who epitomizes Christian extremism.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:25 pm |
    • Sonnie2

      What have Christians every done to hurt you?? Or is it just troubleing that they are the moral fabric that is holding America together. Christians eithic created America and the further you get from that platform the faster we will hit a dead end and end with a dictator and it will take a revoltt to clean up the mess.Santorum will have the knowledge to keep the church and govermment into two differant insitutions.

      February 9, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
  12. StayIgnorant

    1. He'll never be President.
    2. He'll never be President.
    3. He'll never be President.
    4. He'll never be President.
    5. He'll never be President.
    6. He'll never be President.
    7. He'll never be President.
    8. He'll never be President.
    9. He'll never be President.
    10. He'll never be President.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:24 pm |
  13. 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!!!

    When confronted with the tape he actually tried to deny what he said!!!

    February 9, 2012 at 12:24 pm |
  14. Disqualified

    #2, #8 and #10 disqualify him from holding any important office in my world. Got to wonder what kind of decisions we'd get from President Santorum since he questions evolution. I'd prefer a president who can examine evidence and make rational conclusions. What else does he question? Gravity?

    February 9, 2012 at 12:24 pm |
  15. enricorosan

    Evolution is WRONG !! Global warming is a HOAX ! Santorum should leave science alone if he wants to become president People in general won't vote for him if he keeps talking nonsense.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:24 pm |
  16. PatRedstone

    This is why true Christians disengage from the political process. Christians, are by necessity, dogmatic, exclusive and irrational ("Since God has spoken to us, it is no longer necessary to think" – Augustine) so the "anointed" candidates are increasingly irrational, ignorant and dictatorial. Christian activity in politics diminishes the Gospel and covets the kind of power Christ rejected. The Christian movement works best when driven in neutral and fueled on momentum rather than mammon.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:24 pm |
  17. karen

    Thank you, CNN for covering the other side of the political story. Santorum has been largely ignored by the media to this point. The comments on the article here though, make me doubt the sensibilities of the voting public.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:24 pm |
  18. Jon

    The last "reason" is really scary. What's scariest of all is that evangelicals think disdain for science is good. Why don't they just stop using computers, internet, cars, telephones, modern medicine, and everything else science has given us? At least they would then be consistent.

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

      You forget, the GOP is anything but consistent.

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

      no doubt. i work at an engineering firm in Kansas, a pretty religous state. there are a lot of people that i work with that think like santorum. hello? your profession is entirely based on science!

      February 9, 2012 at 12:29 pm |
  19. Switters

    Dear GOP-

    Please make Rick Santorum your candidate, please, please, please

    BHO

    February 9, 2012 at 12:24 pm |
  20. john nj

    Mr.Gilgoff – We are not trying to make this country into a Theocracy, so what you cited as ten reasons to like Santorum is at best ten reasons NOT to like him. His religious beliefs should have no bearing on being Presidential nor should religious beliefs become the laws that dictate rather than choose. We are a country of many denominations not only Christian. As a Christian I abhor this drive toward Christian Fundamentalism. The people following this concept should look at the Muslim Fundamentalists and see where that got them. What next, if you do not accept Christ you get your head cut off? I don't think that was what Jesus intended for his followers.

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

      i would love a professed atheist as a president. instead of the "islam is a religion of peace" rhetoric it would simply be "you people are killing over mythology?"

      February 9, 2012 at 12:29 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.