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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. This is becoming comical !

    Hold your horses author ! The only reason Sanitarium won the other day is because he is not Romney or Gingrich ! Even Republican's despise those two so much that they would vote for a total wack job like Sanitarium ! It's looking more and more like a landslide victory for Obama next election !

    February 9, 2012 at 12:49 pm |
    • 24thMichigan

      I hope you are wrong, we can't take another 4 years of Obama.

      February 9, 2012 at 1:00 pm |
  2. Andrew

    Fundamentalist nutters who believe they've reinvented collective sin and transposed themeselves into the position of Covenant-holding God dealers aren't just kidding themselves. If half of what they purport to believe is true, they're going to Hell (a misinterpretation) for using Jesus as a mascot for Hate and Empire. Sunscreen Jillion?

    February 9, 2012 at 12:49 pm |
  3. lloyd roberts

    I guess we are like muslim countries. We could possibly elect a theocracy and our grand pastors and grand priests will be like the grand mullah's. Not what the founding fathers envisioned

    February 9, 2012 at 12:49 pm |
  4. Hi I only came for the comments

    They did not let me down

    February 9, 2012 at 12:49 pm |
  5. Mark

    So if you're for freedom then you're anti-Christian? The world does not need another theocracy. Catholics should be ashamed about the pedophiles being enabled by the higher ups in the Church. They have presided over the coverups and payoffs to victims now for many years. The knowledge of such practices goes all the way to the Vatican, which must authorize those disbursements of funds. The Word is not at fault it's the humans who abuse it's teachings.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:49 pm |
  6. DC

    @blaqbOx:

    Yeah, students in my daughter's high school aren't even allowed to say "santorum" unless they are discussing the election in class or something; it's considered inappropriate language because of its other meaning. Lots of giggling in Civics class, I'm sure.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
  7. Deke

    We have strayed so far from having religion in our society. It amazes me how so many people are so scared of a Christian running for public office. Our America is slowly chipping away from the moral compass and it is becoming so evident that we are going down the wrong road. God help us...

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

      American was never a christian nation. Its you that's the invader.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
    • go4it

      There is no god. We have to do what we have done since the beginning, help ourselves collectively.

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

      "Our America?" That's the point. America was created as a SECULAR nation separating Church and State. It's everybody's America.

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

      Obama is a Christian and many of us don't view him as a threat. The difference is that Obama doesn't try to impose his religion on everyone else, which is how it should be.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:52 pm |
    • Ronald Reganzo

      America was founded by men of God, for men of God. God given rights form the backbone of the Republic.

      February 9, 2012 at 1:04 pm |
    • Sue

      Deke, it's scary enough that nutbars like you get to vote. There should be an IQ test for voters.

      February 9, 2012 at 1:06 pm |
  8. shplagank

    "Santorum isn’t afraid to challenge science, questioning the theory of evolution and dismissing global warming as “a hoax.” "

    Isnt afraid to question the theory of evolution? And what's his belief? That creationism makes more sense and has a better foundation? How could this article be so high up on CNN site right now? Is there seriously no other news here. What happened to the standards of journalism? What moron wrote this?

    Dan Gilgoff – CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

    Belief Blog? We'll its my belief that you're ignorant. Also you're 1-9 was just as dumb as 10.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
  9. Colin

    I'm not a person of religion, but I fully support someone who chooses to believe in God. However, to deny science and call evolution a hoax is plain stupid, especially for someone who wants to the head of the United States. You can stick by your morals, but you have to be a little flexible as President. This guy can't represent the U.S.

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

      Not a Santorum fan but don't mince his words. He never said evolution is a hoax, he said global warming is a hoax.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:57 pm |
    • fred

      PR
      Colin does the same thing with the Word of God and really likes to twist that into his world view. I think 4 years of Rick as president will bring Colin around to the truth.

      February 9, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
    • Unicorn Lover

      Also, if you have 7 children you would think you care more about the future of our planet but apparently when you think you have heaven awaiting you who cares about the future on this earth.

      February 9, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
  10. Andy

    Let him win, this will guarantee President Obama's second term.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
  11. rudix

    Just a real nice guy...no matter what party you are....and is real...thanks TheDimensionMachineDOTcom

    February 9, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
  12. Zeke2112

    Like him all you want. If he should win the nomination, we moderates and independents will ensure he doesn't get elected. Thanks for playing.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
  13. FREEDOM RIDE TO ALAMABA, ARIZONA

    I am a Christian. I am Hispanic. I will not vote for Rick Santorum or any Republican as long as they continue to use Hispanics and immigrants as political scapegoats and as long as they act as hypocrites, claiming to be Chrisitan and compassionate, yet showing no Christian morality or compassion towards minorities. I am a Christian, I am Hispanic, I am American, and I will not vote for a Republican in November.

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

      Then you should take a look at Ron Paul, who specifically pointed out that Republicans use Hispanics as scapegoats to push blame on.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:54 pm |
    • PR

      I sure wish you'd start off with I'm American first, not third.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:59 pm |
  14. PalmSpringsCal

    Does he want to be the President of only American Catholics or for all Americans?

    February 9, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
  15. Andrew

    A lot of people hating on religion. I'm agnostic myself, but I'm not so bigoted to hate religions or people.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
    • Zeke2112

      So hating religion makes you a bigot, but using religion as a reason to deny rights to people is okay? MMMmmmkay.

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

      Agnostics are just atheists with no balls to face it. Religion should be treated with ridicule. This is the 21st century.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:53 pm |
    • Joe Rioux

      shudder. So tired of the phrase, "hating on". Just say, "hating".

      February 9, 2012 at 12:54 pm |
    • tripp

      Hating something that doesnt exist does not make you a bigot, it makes you rational.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:58 pm |
  16. anthony stark

    The reason Obama won the last election and will probably win this one is because the GOP is out of touch. John McCain was a stand up guy, albeit a little lacking intellectually. He would have beaten Obama. But then he gave Sarah Palin the VP slot and lost those independent white voters who didn't feel comfortable with Obama but weren't stupid enough to risk an uneducated but cute uber-religious hockey mom in office.

    Four years later the GOP is reaching again. There's the religious nut Santorum, the undercover liberal Romney, or Ron Paul who has some great ideas but would also like to see us basically have the same social safety net as Nigeria. Then there's Newt Gingrich, who makes 90's Bill Clinton look like Tim Tebow. Get an honest candidate with actual sensible IDEAS and make that the centerpiece of your campaign, not Obama who's record is looking better and better everyday.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
  17. Randy

    I can't believe that you actually dredged up "compassionate conservatism". That focus group gem hasn't been mentioned since Bush campaigned on it in 2000. Then it was quickly dropped, never to be mentioned again. Besides, being a "compassionate conservative" from your description means that the US gives humanitarian support to foreign countries for AIDS and poverty, but not within the US. At least, that's how it worked in the Bush presidency. And I don't see Santorum doing it any differently.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
    • St8sman

      Don't assume you speak for me or for anyone else. I'm a veteran (USAF '69 – '73) and I dern sure wouldn't vote for any of these GOP crazies. They pander to some of the worst impulses of humanity...ignorance and false pride.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:59 pm |
  18. alateos

    Interesting how headlines always have numbers like 5, 10, 20... So what happens when there are 6 or 7 reasons?

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

      Go watch George Carlin's "Ten Commandments" on YouTube and you will understand why.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:53 pm |
  19. DOUG

    If the 2012 election was decided only by the votes of criminals, drug dealers, and everyone locked up then the Democrats would win in a landslide.

    If the 2012 election was decided only by the votes of our brave men and women who fight for our freedom in all levels of our military then the Republicans would win in a landslide.

    Dem will attack because all that has been stated here is fact. Quite telling, the facts and the lib reaction.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:46 pm |
    • Zeke2112

      Are you referring to the brave men and women who urinate on corpses? High moral standards there.

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

      Zeke is a moron, citing how 4 or 5 idiots represent the thousands of brave men and women. But Doug, you're wrong. Fighting science? Denying rights to people because God says so, yet God's supposed to love everybody? Religion= HOAX.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:54 pm |
    • mm

      "If the 2012 election was decided only by the votes of our brave men and women who fight for our freedom in all levels of our military then the Republicans would win in a landslide."

      What military are you talking about? Iraq, Iran, China?
      I'm assuming you are not in the US military. BOOT UP, BOY AND GET A CLUE!

      February 9, 2012 at 12:56 pm |
    • Matt

      DOUG... I'm sorry that you are a voter in this country. A fully functioning democracy has informed voters. It's sad to know that you ingest the pro-right/anti-"lib" propaganda. You're vote will be a vote for ignorance. bah like the sheep you are.

      February 9, 2012 at 1:00 pm |
    • tripp

      Geee DOUG, 99% of people in the US criminal system (Locked UP) are christian. People like you seem to throw away all rational and critical thinking when it comes to anything that effects humanity. You always find a way to get your imaginary friend to tell you what to do and what to say.

      February 9, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
    • AlexK

      Where did you make that up from?

      The majority of millionaires in the United States are Democrats. The majority of people living below the poverty line are republicans.

      February 9, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
    • Zeke2112

      Joe, my point is that being in the military does not eqaute you with the moral high road. There are idiots in every demographic, and claiming that brave military members would have voted for the most moral candidate is absurd.

      February 9, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
  20. Ummmmm

    I think you meant to type 'Ten Reasons to NOT vote for Santorum' .........right??? right?

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

      Right 🙂

      February 9, 2012 at 12:49 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.