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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. Mark Johnson

    Yes, politicians should challenge scientists. Because scientist do not know anything about Science and politicians can read the bible and figure all the scientific stuff out. The Bible, really, is the only book we need. Think of the paper we would save.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:46 pm |
    • fofotavour

      Are you serious?

      February 9, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
    • hwrcpa

      I can't begin to tell you how much of an id0t you are.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
    • r schier

      It is more than certain this is simply sarcasm at its best....

      February 9, 2012 at 12:55 pm |
    • fofotavour

      This is what I would love to do. Make these churches pay their fair share of taxes and see how many of these phonies will eventually crumble down. These churches always put their nose into the politic, throw money into our politic and back up the stupidest politicians and consequently change the outcome of things, proposition 8 is a good example of Mormon money causing an embarrassing outcome from the Californian who used to have a very open minded populace. That is why the churches should not be tax exempt. We need to bring American to the 21st century, too many backward religious in this country.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:57 pm |
  2. kumar

    It is a pity that people like him can even come this far in a country like US.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:46 pm |
  3. LeRoy_Was_Here

    Santorum is overtly hostile to science.

    If this man should ever somehow become President, America might as well run up the white flag of surrender.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:46 pm |
  4. santorum FANATIC

    best part of santorum is what his name really means!!

    February 9, 2012 at 12:45 pm |
  5. Kimo

    Believing his own dogmatic views over the views of science is an attribute? I don't want a President who is so narrow minded that he can't listen to facts from his advisers. Everything in this article says that Santorum is true to his beliefs but there is nothing here that says he's qualified to lead a democratic nation full of diverse cultures and competing interests. George Bush supposedly said that God told him to invade Iraq. We don't need any more of that nonsense.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:44 pm |
  6. Ron

    What the f*** is "belief blog" doing as the FRONT PAGE OF CNN HEADLINE NEWS? Regardless of the topic, that's utter crap. CNN: You should be ashamed to call yourselves journalists.

    And worse, it's an article endorsing a Presidental Candidate. Way to keep it politically unbiased! /s

    And worse, it's an article that questions science. New rule: If you don't believe in established scientific theory, you are no longer allowed the wonders of science. This includes the Internet, medicine, cars, electricity, and especially the ability to blog.

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

      That's right. His daughter Bella is alive not because of God but because of science. What a jerk this man is.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
    • DaveSEMass

      Having the science-deniers on here makes it more fun. Otherwise, we'd all be in agreement and then we'd be some Fox echo-chamber blog and what fun is that?

      February 9, 2012 at 12:50 pm |
    • Southern GaL

      I must agree with this comment. I can not understnd why CNN would write and article that pushed the views of a person running for any office.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:50 pm |
    • Ummmmm

      New rule: If you don't believe in God, you're no longer allowed the wonders of God. That would include all of science, the universe, and the whole of our existence .

      February 9, 2012 at 12:55 pm |
  7. chgn66

    Jim Bob Duggar (the guy on the TV show with 20 kids) meets all 10 of these reasons. Maybe he should be president.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:44 pm |
  8. koko brewster

    I'm a Christian but have never been a fan of Santorum's, until now maybe. Aside from all of the Christianity talk in this article, most of which I agree with, I was impressed more by the fact that Santorum seems to be an honest family man that says what he means and means what he says. He doesn't back away from the tough issues and he's trying to do what he believes is right, not what his handlers are telling him he should think is right. I would rather have someone that has integrity in office than a slimey cad that can't keep it in his pants and wants to colonize the moon (way to waste taxpayer money Newt), or a businessman that seems out of touch (Mitt) or a guy that just wants to look cool (Obama). Go figure, a president with some integrity. When was the last time that happened??? Our forefathers would be so proud to know the criteria Americans vote a president in on today.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:44 pm |
    • Dick Hertz

      Are we talking about the same office that was stolen twice?

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

      You forgot one very important aspect. He says what he means and means what he says, True. But what he says is stupid. Substance over form.

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

      He's just another religious zealot. Hasn't humanity had enough of them?

      February 9, 2012 at 12:50 pm |
  9. MaxPower

    Santorum would deny birth control to all women and force them into late maternal age pregnancies where genetic defects become common. Yes, like his wife who gave birth at 48 to poor Isabella with Trisomy 18. Now Isabella is suffering for it and he would force the rest of us into the same situation.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:44 pm |
  10. jellylee2020

    I thought the #1 reason to love Santorum is that there will be no doubt he'll send Obama to the White Office for a second term.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:44 pm |
  11. Valenti

    Instead of laying on of hands for office, why not deal with his hatred, judgment, and condemnation of our President Barack Obama. The indication of true Christianity is that Christ lives in you, Galations 2:20, and I ask you, can that be the Christ in Santorum spewing out that gut rot. I can tell you it is not!!! A tree is known by it;s fruit! Matthew 7:15-29.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:43 pm |
  12. mike

    Im sorry, "becuase the bible tells me so" isnt the same as "challenging science".

    Further its a pity that with all his relig-emcation he missed out on the whole forgiveness and tolerance chapters and instead chooses and advocates to be an anti-gay equal rights bigot and anti-right to choose.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:43 pm |
    • John

      This. His ranting against reality and 'science' isn't a challenge at all. He is insignificant, an unworthy opponent.

      When a man stands in the street and screams that he is a king, he isn't exactly challenging the government.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
  13. Dick Hertz

    He'll never see my vote. Freedom from Religion should be as much a right as Freedom of Religion! Ron Paul 2012.

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

    "10 reasons to love Santorum"

    That's the silliest thing I've heard today. I don't love him nor could I probably even like him. This makes sense coming from super christian "religion editor" Dan Gilgoff.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:42 pm |
  15. mike

    THIS GUY IS TOTALLY STUPID , IT FEEL LIKE WE ARE GOING BACK ON TIME TO RELIGIOUS RULE WHEN THE INQUISITION WAS A WEAPON OF KILLING AND TORTURE... the scary part is that some americans are too ignorant to even see the danger of organized religion .

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

    The good news is, Google's Biggest Loser doesn't matter. (1) You can't find ten moderates in this country who would even think of voting for him. (2) His frequent history of veiled, bigoted comments and his extremist views on reproductive rights would drive away minorities and women once exposed in a general election campaign. (3) There will be no hiding his extreme, non-mainstream views and theocratic leanings in a general election; already his pronouncement about banning contraception has eroded his support with moderate conservatives. If the GOP is stupid enough to nominate him, he will suffer the worst loss since Michael Dukakis.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:42 pm |
  17. xrk9854

    Some quotes conservatives need to know:

    ‎"The Government of the United States is NOT, in ANY sense, founded on the Christian Religion." - John Adams

    ‎"Christianity neither is, nor ever was a part of the common law."-Thomas Jefferson

    "In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own." -Thomas Jefferson

    ‎"... I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between church and State."-Thomas Jefferson

    Conservatives who claim to stand with the Founding Fathers and clearly they do not.

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

      I can make up random thoughts and attribute them to past leaders too. Doesn't mean there's any truth in it.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:49 pm |
    • Consider this....

      Ok, I read this and came up w/ my list: Ten reasons why I don’t like Santorum for President

      1) “He’s always thinking about his family”. Try thinking about the country first. How do I know that you'll keep the country's interests first?
      2) Pushing minority views on a majority. Catholics and conservatives are in the minority here.
      3) If he’s homeschooling seven kids, when will be have time to be president? Um..excuse me Ms. Merkel, I need to grade these homework assignments....
      4) Devout “cradle Catholic”. Pushing a minority view (Catholics) on the country.
      5) Who cares if Romney is a Mormon? He also is in a minority but he’s not pushing his minority views on the country as a whole the way Santorum is doing (oh so vocally).
      6) This is actually a plus for Santorum.
      7) He appears to be a one-issue candidate – strict Catholicism.
      8) See #2.
      9) If true, need more details – which should have been brought to the front LONG before now if he wanted to really leverage this work of his.
      10) See #2.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
  18. augustghost

    11...he pretends to be religious

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

      Leave Obamanism out of this

      February 9, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
  19. 66Biker

    So he's a family man. Big deal. If he doesn't support equal rights for all Americans, then he won't get my vote.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:42 pm |
  20. blaqb0x

    #12 Google "Santorum" and you get grossed out.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:42 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.