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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. jeff t

    sounds like a good guy. too bad the country isn't interested. we'd rather vote for what ever cable tv tells us is cool.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:35 pm |
    • Dave R

      The country isn't interested in a theocracy. They want someone who can be a leader, not a priest/pastor/rabbi/minister.

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

      He doesn't even sound like a good minister. The Catholic faith does not deny evolution.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:40 pm |
    • Denver Broncos Fan

      I don't want a "good guy" as our President, I want a leader with solutions.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:40 pm |
  2. Denver Broncos Fan

    This is scary stuff. Santorum does not understand separation of church and state. It’s okay if you are a “Christian”, but God help us if we are a Muslim, Jew, Mormon, Hindu, or agnostic.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:35 pm |
    • jeff t

      i would say you don't understand separation of church and state. the concept is to keep government from dictating what religions can do, not abolishing them.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:41 pm |
    • Dave R

      jeff t – I would say that it is you that does not understand separation of church and state. Look it up and get back to us.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
  3. DrFricke

    Don't do it, fellow Republicans, don't nominate Santorum. He won't win. Everyone knows he won't win. I'd rather vote for a flawed Republican that can win and keep him in check via a conservative Congress than nominate one who will guarantee Obama is in. Hold your nose, and vote for Romney.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:35 pm |
    • Dave R

      Do it tea baggers, do it. It will only decrease your already minimal chances of winning. Do it tea baggers, do it.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:40 pm |
  4. american

    LOL this story is complete trash. Nothing but his personal life and surface social "issues" are in this "news" story. The government HAS NO AUTHORITY to say anything about social practices unless property is being damaged. Why dont you list the HUNDREDS of reasons to "love" ron paul?

    February 9, 2012 at 12:35 pm |
    • denver2

      Like the fact that he wants free markets to decide whether or not it is ok for you to eat lead? Or the way he wants companies to be able to enact racist hiring policies in the name of freedom?

      February 9, 2012 at 12:37 pm |
    • Dave R

      100s of reasons, the guy can barely get 100s of votes. Wake up. Take a hint. Ron Paul has zero chance. 50 second, third, or fourth places does not equal one first place.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:42 pm |
  5. J

    11. He is for freedom, except if you are doing things he doesn't want you to do (especially in the bedroom)

    12. He believes the earth is < 10,000 years old (and possibly that it is flat)

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

    This guy scares anyone who is not a die-hard religious zealot. His views are directly in line with a Christian version of Sharia law – he has no business leading a country which calls itself a "Melting Pot".

    February 9, 2012 at 12:35 pm |
    • larrydavidsandwhich

      I think more people would be inclined to vote for your party if they weren't so hell bent on spending everyone else's money and imposing incessant gubbmint regulation on every aspect of our daily lives. Perhaps you should address your king on those issues.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:37 pm |
  7. ctvince

    Rick Santorum has sound leadership qualities. He does what he talks about. You may not agree with him, but he's the only honest candidate next to Ron Paul running for President, (or presently holding office). I believe his run is going to pick up some traction. Romney appears to be less principled and more power hungry. Obama is principled but clueless.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:34 pm |
    • Dave R

      If you think this knucklehead has sound leadership qualities, then you are clueless. A political leader does not impose his religious beliefs on millions who may not share them. Check out separation of church and state.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:45 pm |
    • sarah

      He might make a good church leader, but not everyone a president leads is going to be catholic or wants to be. God established a church, not a nation.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
  8. Foreverwar

    How backwards can someone be to not believe in evolution? This man is dangerously stupid.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:34 pm |
    • sarah

      The Catholic church itself does not deny evolution. So I'm not sure where he gets it.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:53 pm |
    • Matt

      So someone is automatically stupid for not believing in evolution? It's just an opinion dude

      February 9, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
  9. exmark

    We should be talking about how good Ron Paul is instead IMHO. These other guys are fake conservatives.

    God Bless

    February 9, 2012 at 12:34 pm |
  10. tstorm

    We are not a religious conservative nation nor should we ever be. Santorum's will imposed on citizens would take away a lot of personal freedoms we take for granted and make us no better than an Iran or Afghanistan.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:34 pm |
    • Jeremy

      Unlike Obama's will imposement, right?

      February 9, 2012 at 12:38 pm |
    • jeff t

      name one.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:42 pm |
  11. Russ

    The closer we get to electing this religious fanatic, the more convinced I am that the best of the worst is 4 more years of Obama.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:34 pm |
    • Denver Broncos Fan

      I agree. Where is someone (anyone) with a step by step plan?

      February 9, 2012 at 12:38 pm |
  12. Scot

    I do believe in God. I just believe that some of the people that say they do do not show that they do in the actions they take. The my way or the high way "Christians" do not have a pipeline to God nor do the pastors or priests. They are just supose to be honoring God by doing good will to all people not jamming down the throats the false piety that people like the fundamentalists do. Most Americans can see through this and will not vote for this man !

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

      Belief in God does not imply agreeing to be a second class citizen in one's own country. Belief in God implies not only love of one's fellow man, but also love of God and HIS law. When the government decides to spit on God's law, then you will see truly pious take a stand like proud Americans. Don't expect them to remain silent when love of God and love of their fellow men demands them to courageously speak against popular misconceptions. This debate is not about Christians forcing their beliefs down others' throats. Rather, the debate is about the current administration forcing its beliefs, or more precisely the lack thereof, down Christians throats, and specifcally Catholics' throats. The debate goes much further than what should be covered under insurance plans. The debate is about government interference in an American cornerstone, that of freedom of religion. No American should be willing to cow-tow to any government that would strip them of the freedoms that our ancestors suffered and died to win for us.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:55 pm |
  13. VastRightWingConspiracy

    Wow, could CNN push for a Santorum nomination a bit harder? Sound pretty worried about Barry having to run against a moderate Romney.

    Romney's record is clear. The "faithful" people who don't "trust" Romney are fearful of a religion they don't understand.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:33 pm |
    • denver2

      I like how every time anything is published on CNN about any contender for the GOP nomination, half the righties accuse CNN of smearing the guy and the other half accuses CNN of promoting someone they know Obama will beat.

      Which is it this time? Depends on which half you talk to...

      February 9, 2012 at 12:35 pm |
    • sarah

      I don't think CNN is pushing for Santorum. Their "10 reasons" don't appeal to most people.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:57 pm |
  14. Jerry

    The headline should read 10 reasons not to ellect Rick Santorum.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:33 pm |
  15. ncredulus

    If you are looking for a theocracy this is you man. You might also look into his attempt to help Catholic University in DC cheat the Soldiers' Home out of market value in a real estate deal he and Ted Kennedy helped broker. Check it out for yourself.

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

      ??? could u elaborate?

      February 9, 2012 at 1:20 pm |
  16. Kiki

    I know this comment wont be popular but I dont need to be popular, it means more to me to be right. I am SO SICK of women whining "You can tell me what to do with MY body!"

    NEWSFLASH!!! KILLING YOUR BABY IS NOT someting you do to YOUR body, it is something you're doing (butcheri ng to be exact) to your BABIES body. STOP BEING SELFISH, STOP MUTILATING YOUR BABIES!!!

    If a baby wer born would you throw a blanket over her and shove a knife into her head? I would hope not. So then WHY are you so cool comfortable and even proud of doing JUST that while the baby is hidden not under a blanket, but under a layer of uterus and skin??

    Please people, dont put yourself first when there is a tiny innocent life involved. Do something noble, think of the child. If you cant raise him or her there are plenty of families who would love to. Bottom line-dont kill babies!!

    And PLEASE stop with the pro choice already!! Choice? What choice does your BABY have here? NONE!!! People who abort are only pro THEIR choice, never considering giving their CHILD a choice. (to live) ABortion is PRO-KILL. Say it like it is. You are choosing to KILL, so it is pro-kill.

    I've even herd the fancy up means down black is white mentality term "ANTI CHOICE" To this I say no, I infact am PRO-LIFE. And if we are to be correct and say PRO-KILL, then yes I am proud to say I am ANTI-CHOICE TO KILL A BABY.

    Please think hard guys. It doesnt take much to see what sort of person killing a child makes you. Dont do it. Please choose another option.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:32 pm |
    • dare777

      Kiki, I sure hope you have 8 adopted children in your house, because without abortion we would be in severe detriment with a bunch of unloved children in foster care system. Think about the BIG picture.

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

      God kills millions of children a year, what kind of 'person' does that make him?

      rm

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

      Don't like abortion? Don't have one. There are already too many people on this planet that no one gives a darn about, including Christians, Catholics, Mormons, Muslims, Jews, and so on.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:36 pm |
    • Dave R

      Give it a rest Kiki. Don't preach to others. If you want to live your life that way. Go for it.

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

      It is about choice and I agree, people should think long and hard about abortion, but people also need to respect that there are some very good reasons why someone would and we simply cannot legislate them all. Their choice, their body, their soul. Not yours.

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

      Kiki, learn some basic biology.
      A fetus is NOT a child
      A fetus is NOT a baby
      A fetus is NOT a person yet
      A fetus is dependent on the mother for everything
      A fetus is PART of the mother
      Women are NOT wombs with legs
      "pro-life" is ANTI-woman

      We celebrate BIRTHdays not CONCEPTIONdays. Even the genocidial god of the bible refers to the "breath of life" and says that causing a miscarriage isn't killing, you only have to pay a fine.

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

      no one is asking you or anyone else to have an abortion. you are ANTI-CHOICE, not PRO-LIFE. all you zealots want to tell others what to do...STOP. you cannot and will not. women have always had and will continue to have abortions. Roe v Wade keeps it SAFE. would you rather have back alley doctors doing it? and you are taking it for granted that women just randomly choose abortion. are you not aware that it is a deeply personal and difficult CHOICE to make? you really are way off base. you do what you think is right and let others make the same CHOICE.

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

      The issue is the simplistic thing you make it out to be. Think about all facets of the issue, not just the woman who use abortion as birth control.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:41 pm |
    • Disgusted!

      The problem here is the the other option is under fire! These neo-cons are fighting to outlaw contraceptives too. Next they will fight to stop the sale of condoms. The worst thing about these people is that deep down under they are the freakiest things that walk the earth. I do not support abortion but I think this whole pro and anti-choice thing is getting out of hand!

      February 9, 2012 at 12:49 pm |
    • Hypatia

      Shut up you dumb bunny!

      February 9, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
  17. JT

    It was so unsettling to see these people doing this bronze age ritual, especially when it involves someone who could potentially become president of the US. They might as well be doing a seance.

    We need someone in the Whitehouse who uses reason and lives in the real world. Not someone who believes that thoughts in their head is some invisible sky god speaking to them. Very frightening.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:32 pm |
  18. 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 12:32 pm |
  19. packerfans

    Vote for Mitt Romney can save America!!! Rick, Newt and Paul does not have sklls in white house!! Do you want wrong another President again again again and debts and failed and no experince in White house alike Obama is failed totals. Vote for Mitt Romney.. Church and state is seperate!!! Vote by congress and rep of house deal with Mitt Romney if he will become President!!

    February 9, 2012 at 12:32 pm |
  20. J.W

    Oh they put this on the front page. I was wondering why it was suddenly getting so many responses.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:32 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.