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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. Mason

    Keep your freaking religion out of my politics. I would vote republican but apparently that's all these republicans short of Ron Paul can talk about. Keep your beliefs out of me and my love ones rights as human beings and the republicans might get my vote. I don't care that you think the traditional family values are being destroyed. The longest and most loving relationship out of the people I know are my friends Jim and Aaron, they make the Beavers looks like monsters.YOUR RELIGIOUS BELIEF SHOULD NOT AFFECT MY RIGHTS!

    February 9, 2012 at 12:39 pm |
  2. Krreagan

    These are 10 great reasons to keep him from every having control of a sandbox! Let alone a country! this man is truly dangerous to thinking people everywhere.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:39 pm |
  3. Marge

    But republicans have to think. those that oppose Santorum because of his extreme beliefs are staying home from voting. They should look at what happened to the Democrats in 2010. Altho they loved the fact that the republicans got in. BUT it just goes to show if they stay home, if they do not vote for an alternative from Santorum will be the candidate and they won't have anyone to vote for. When you have 470,000 registered republican voters and only 15,000 or a little more show up to vote you see what happens.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:38 pm |
  4. Midwesterner from Iowa

    It is hard to fathom the terms "Christian" and "Republican" together!
    A true Christian would never say 'then let that man die!' if he cannot afford insurance!
    But since Santorum is also a Tea Party favorite, that association takes Christianity right out of the picture as we all know that the Tea Party is the most 'un-Christian' group around!!!

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

      Well said.

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

    #10 is the reason Santorum should never be allowed anywhere *near* the presidency.

    And there's no doubt in my mind that in the general election, Obama would beat Santorum like a rented mule.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:38 pm |
  6. and...

    I noticed you did not include him telling a sick kid to suck it up and stop complaining about high drug prices because i-Pads cost $900.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:38 pm |
  7. Conservative2.0

    This article should read, one reason liberal media wants Rick Santorum to be president – He has no chance at beating Barack Obama. A win for Rick is a guaranty Obama makes it another four years.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:38 pm |
  8. Michael

    As a "former" Catholic I cannot think of one reason to embrace this faith. It is and always has been so corrupt and controlling. Choosing a president among this group is impossible but..... many will cower to the least offensive and jump on this religious phony bandwagon. Shame on us.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:37 pm |
  9. OakRockers

    "Religious Conservatives" are both naive and gullible. That's why they are "Religious Conservatives".

    February 9, 2012 at 12:37 pm |
  10. Cammy

    Mr. Gilgoff, are you oblivious?

    February 9, 2012 at 12:37 pm |
  11. BL

    The man took home his dead fetus for show and tell. He needs many years of therapy, not a presidential nomination.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:37 pm |
    • Switters

      The Dept of Health in Pennsylvania would never had allowed this – had he not used his political influence.......

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

    What's wrong with Gay marriage? Why should straight people be the only ones who suffer? 🙂

    February 9, 2012 at 12:37 pm |
  13. VinoBianco

    This article should be called "10 Reasons Not to Vote for Rick Santorum (beside the fact that it's difficult to stomach saying "president santorum""

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

      There only needs to be one reason to vote for Santorum..... he's not that lunatic Obama!

      February 9, 2012 at 12:43 pm |
  14. Switters

    NEVER ONCE has Santorum spoken out about the years and years of child abuse by the pedophile priests in his church – he is indeed – a 'good Catholic'.......

    February 9, 2012 at 12:36 pm |
  15. Jeremy

    The role of government is to PROTECT LIBERTY, not to legislate morality which cannot be done and shouldn't be attempted. Of all the candidates, including President Obama, the only one committed to protecting liberty is Dr. Ron Paul. He, too, is a committed Christian, but doesn't shove his faith down your throat because he wouldn't like if you shoved your faith down his. Tolerance made this country the melting pot that it is, but has little chance of survival if the views of several dictate the law for many. We must restore it. It can only be done by protecting liberty. Ron Paul 2012.

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

      Ron Paul only has slightly more chance of becoming president than I do. And that's because I'm not running.

      He's not really a Republican, but he's running as one, and neither his economic nor foreign policies are sane.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:42 pm |
  16. carly

    This can't be a serious article by Gilgoff. If it is CNN should look for another editor for this section. Santorum is a first class clown and nothing else.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:36 pm |
  17. Stew Shearer

    And these are also the reasons countless people are going to vote against him. Obama's performance has disappointed me but I'd vote for him again just to keep Santorum out of the White House.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:36 pm |
  18. David

    Wow, feel the disdain for Christianity in these responses.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:36 pm |
    • and...

      Maybe if some "Christians" stopped acting like hypocritical, knee-jerk, angry, mean, bullies it would stop.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:37 pm |
    • Switters

      Not for Christianity – just for Rick Santorum....

      February 9, 2012 at 12:37 pm |
    • DaveSEMass

      I'm a Christian and I think at least some of the disdain is deserved. Loud-mouth, intolerant, conservative Christians have given the religion a black eye. They're so far from Christ's teachings that they're more annoying than ardent know-it-all atheists. My takeaway from the bible is that Christ was not a loud-mouthed, right-wing conservative. I don't know whom they think they're emulating, but it's more Anti-Christ than Christ.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:43 pm |
    • exhausting!

      I agree with Dave and David, but 'and...' you can't say liberals haven't exactly been bullies, eiither.

      I think all of these comments support that.

      February 9, 2012 at 1:01 pm |
  19. Kiki

    How would I be viewed if I chose to kiill myself while carrying a child. I would be seen as a hearltess coward. Why then if I choose to KEEP my life, and kill ONLY my baby am I seen as modern, liberated, and free minded?? Oh the contradictions in society...

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

      It's funny because you just don't understand the people with whom you are arguing. If a pregnant woman killed herself I'd view as a tragedy but I wouldn't view her as a murderer. I certainly wouldn't lament the death of a child who would have otherwise grown up without a mother.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:41 pm |
    • BRC

      @Kiki,
      You are allowed to have your views, and you are allowed to feel strongly about them, but the fact is that what you consider "killing a baby" many people do not. Stopping a bundle of cells from dividing so that it might one day form organs, and possibly develope the capacity to survive outside of its mother's life support is not the same thing as "stabbing a baby in the head" as you put it before. Your comparison is inflamatroy and disengenous. You cannot know everyone else's situation, only they can, and if they don't feel that allow a life to come into the world is the best thing for that potential life, that's their call. NOONE has a better perspective on the issue, or the right to tell them otherwise.

      I think you fill find that the overwhelming majority of people who are pro-choice agree with you, if the fetus is viable outside of the womb (at teh absolute earliest 20 weeks), then yes, abortion should no longer be considered an option unless it is medically certain that the baby wouldn't survive the delivery, adn there is a strong chance the mother wouldn't either. But that's not what most people are advocating. They want to uphold the right of people who know they can't support a life from ever reaching that potential, while it is still a completely dependent unconcious formation of cells purely reliant on the mother's body.

      A mother who poisons a child that is already born has done a terrible thing. That life made it trhough the dicey and uncertain process of pregnancy and birth, and she had other options, the baby could have been put up for adoption. A woman at 10 weeks who goes in for a medically performed abortion has made a decision to prevent the long adn uncertain process from continuing, buy ending it early; because if she doesn't feel that she can go through with the pregnancy she didn't have another choice. You can't put a fetus up for adoption, if we could perform womb to womb transplants, fine, that would be another option, but since it's not, the ioption to seek safe, controlled, medically administered abortions is necessary.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
  20. Rick

    And # 10 is my biggest problem. To deny science shows me clearly that he is intellectually incapable of being president. Meaning that HE is an IDIOT.

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

      I agree, but Bush managed to get elected, which, of course, supports your point. It's scary that people would sign up for another round of Bush.

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

      Correct. He certified it himself. What a moron.

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

      Wow...he's an idiot for being religious. You must consider that Muslim Obama to be an IDIOT too??

      February 9, 2012 at 12:45 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.