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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. randme

    He lives in a dream world and for him that is fine.. Unfortunately, the vast majority of people in the world cannot live in a dream world. There are dreams and there is reality. He will never be able to understand–let alone address–the real problems of life.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:42 pm |
  2. Neo

    Founding fathers would roll over in their graves. Religion and state should be separate. Its the foundation of American society.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:42 pm |
    • DOUG

      Yes it scary that we have a president who hates Americans based on their religious views, his comments about all Christians clinging to their guns and religion show a hateful man that has unAmerican intentions for his fellow Americans who he clearly views as the enemy. I guess its odds, first one out of 44 is not bad, and we can fix this mistake in November.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:50 pm |
  3. Reptillian

    So what I got from this article is that Santorum is a proud bigotted idiot who isn't afraid to push his ignorant theocratic ideology on others.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:42 pm |
  4. DOUG

    Rick like any of the Repubicans is great for the simple fact that we must return to how it was before #44, the first 43 Presidents loved all Americans and didn't see them as the enemy or terrorists just because they disagreed with the presidents politics. It is very scary when the President hates a sector of our society based upon their religious views, as Obama let it be known when he stated that he thinks all Christians cling to their guns and religion.

    Americans who have true and real compassion, the ability to feel remorse, and take truth over lies have a moral obligation to vote Republican, the words here from Democrats and the Democrat actions from local to federal show this as fact. Interacting with 'dem in the bluest parts of America is even more proof as people in red America simply do not ever show such a disregard for the lives of their fellow Americans as Democrats do on the roads in the bluest parts of America.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:41 pm |
  5. hwrcpa

    Nine of these reasons are why he should not be president.

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

      I was going to post that the only one of these we can all agree is a good thing is that he's not Newt Gingrich.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:56 pm |
  6. Switters

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

    February 9, 2012 at 12:41 pm |
  7. blaqb0x

    #11 He wants to lead the American Taliban.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:41 pm |
  8. rec

    As a demacrat it would be a DREAM COME TRUE to see Oboma versus Santorum. Santorum looks like a school boy not ready for prime time.

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

    Like many people here I don't believe in a deity. Unlike most people here I'm agnostic, and recognize the good that religion has done for our society. Christianity created the great things of western civilization. People here are filled with hate towards it though.

    I take religion the same way as any spiritual guru, there all in it for a buck, but they have something to say.

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

      I would argue that Christianity has been incidental to the great things in Western civilization–not causal.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:46 pm |
  10. Real America

    It would be amusing to see Santorum's pick for science advisor. He must have someone on staff now. I wonder who it is?

    February 9, 2012 at 12:40 pm |
  11. Larry

    Mel Gibson is a devote Catholic and I have a heck of a lot more respect for Mel than I do for this sanctimonious dirtbag.

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

    Once again I ask, what does a person's religious beliefs have to do with being President. I'm so tired of hearing about religion and politics. In my opinion, it is more a detriment to elect someone who is so devoutly religious as they tend to be very closed minded and can not see what is best for the general population.

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

      The population is fairly evenly split on a lot of these issues, so either way, half the people are going to be upset. As far as the role of religion or lack of religion in a candidate's life, it's of huge importance because everyone brings their beliefs with them into the White House or whatever other job they have. It doesn't mean they can't be fair-minded, but an atheist President who hates the idea of God could do as much damage as an uber-conservative, religious one. Christians don't have a monopoly on being close-minded.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:50 pm |
  13. Andre W

    He is a loon whack job. He really need to get a life and jump out the race. He is a dumb racist bigot. Tried to cover up the story of saying black people with blah people. He thinks America is dumb. Jump in the pacific ocean Santorum along with all the other Republicans and drown.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:40 pm |
  14. penquin

    If you are a conservative Christian who believes what they all supposedly believe in, he really is the only true candidate for you.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:40 pm |
  15. Brian

    The person who wrote this article is dangerously stupid as well. #fail CNN

    February 9, 2012 at 12:40 pm |
  16. michael

    Add Eleven, if nominated by Republicans, the President will win by a large margin! Former Santorum is out of step with independents and the majority of americans. He really does prove how of step the Republican Party is with the Majority of americans

    February 9, 2012 at 12:40 pm |
  17. Lisa

    Wow. I know CNN typically has a more liberal base of readers but I did not see them as uneducated. Some of your comments/rhetiric is based in nonsense. Santorum, as well as a lot of conservatives are against gay marriage strictly as a policy. We are for equal rights for all. The term marriage and the sacrament of marraige is defined in the bible as between a man and woman. Marriage was not invented by humans.....in order to accomadte this we are open to civil unions or other bonds that would assure rights to everyone. Rick has shown courage talking about this and the other issues without wavering from his faith. Look past the rhetoric and find the truth before your judge. Your votes must be informed and educated not reflective of what you hear from others.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:39 pm |
    • Brian

      There are A LOT things that the bible says that you religious people conveniently ignore. You can't pick and choose when to follow and cite the bible. Doesn't work that way. You, and the majority of "Christians", are just a bunch of lemmings heading to water.

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

      How can you claim you want equal rights for all while trying to deny them to others? This nation was based on freedom for all NOT christian values. Using your religion to dictate policy in a SECULAR country is anti-American.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:44 pm |
    • Andre W

      How can you call someone uneducated when you sound stupid. He has not shown no courage at all. He shown how stupid he is and how is think the country is just as stupid. Wake up and stop throwing your dumb opinions around for everyone to see. Check yourself for being uneducated before you criticize someone else moron.

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

      I tend to agree to an extent–the secular government should get out of the 'marriage' business entirely. Civil unions or domestic partnerships for any two consenting adults who want them and be done with it. Leave sacraments and sacred bonds to churches–they can decide whom to marry and whom to refuse. That's it, problem solved.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
    • Mikey

      No Lisa, his objections to gay marriage are based on religion NOT policy. The objection to gay marriage is based on the Bible (or an interpretation of it). If it were to be based on policy there would be no objection. Marriage is also a secular event – hence the ability to get married outside of religion, hence the reason you need a marriage license, hence the reason you can be divorced by the State but still be married in the eyes of the Catholic Church.

      February 9, 2012 at 4:00 pm |
  18. gopack

    The sad thing in all this is Rick and the other religious nut jobs are so hung up on shoving their religion down everyone's throat. How about the right NOT to practice religion? Can't have that with a tool like Rick.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:39 pm |
    • EB Farunum

      I agree but there's no 'like' button. I think it's fine for Christians to want to practice their faith but I find offensive that they feel like other people's lives matter to them and they don't like how others live. Santorum has said incredibly offensive things about people and justifies it with religion. I hope he loses badly. He is simply a bigot.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:43 pm |
  19. steve

    I have much admiration for RS. He embodies much of what I believe to be true. He fights for many of the same causes for which I fight. But I am tired of conservatives who care not for the environment. When will my fellow conservatives begin to stand up for protecting the world in which we live? As a Christian, I think that protecting the environment is a matter of good Christian stewardship. Unfortunately, I think RS has been so blinded by the coal industry in Pennsylvania and cannot see it that way.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:39 pm |
    • go4it

      Yep. From PoliGu.com:
      Senator Santorum does not believe in man-made global warming. In 2011, he referred to the notion that man was changing the climate as patently absurd. He opposes cap-and-trade legislation, stating that it would destroy a state like Pennsylvania.

      Senator Santorum supports all manners of energy production. He is a strong advocate for increased oil and gas exploration and increased drilling for oil and natural gas. This includes drilling in ANWR and the outer continental shelf. He opposes the viewpoint that government should chose which resources the people are allowed to use.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:42 pm |
  20. Peikoviany

    Tom Paine was an atheist. Ben Franklin, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson were deists. John Adams was a Christian, but not a Rick Santorum type of Christian. If none of these men are good enough to be Founding Fathers according to Rick Santorum, then Rick Santorum isn't good enough for me. The GOP isn't good enough for me. The Democrats aren't good enough for me if they're too busy trying to find Marx and Prodhoun among the Founding Fathers. So many Americans are sane and sensible people, but our leaders are idiiots.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:39 pm |
    • You said it Brother

      Your right on the mark.... Speaking of marks... These guys all need a change of character, aswell as a fundemental understanding of themselves and the ideals that this nation was founded on to be anywhere near the leaders that it would take to correct the failing that are ruining this Country. Conformist lip service hardly qualifies someone for the Presidency. Nuff said.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:57 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.