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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. NOT MY CHAIR

    This article explained to me exactly what our country does not need. we progress not regress.
    the 10th reason is enough for me. "Santorum isn’t afraid to challenge science, questioning the theory of evolution and dismissing global warming as “a hoax.” that's great that you question things but have you ever questioned your religion and got any proof? fear for our country!!!

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

      if he was really a devout catholic he would accept the churchs' teaching that evolution is completely compatible with biblical interpretation. but it's really the whacko bible thumpers he wants to impress. Think Hagee will endorse him?

      February 9, 2012 at 1:43 pm |
  2. ARbolesco

    Obama is a family man, honest, hard working, faithful. So is Santorum. Where they differ is that Obama gets work done. Santorum slams Obama and does no work.

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

      THANK YOU!

      February 9, 2012 at 12:58 pm |
  3. lynn

    Another Palin mentality. No Catholic I know, including my husand, practices Santorum's version of Catholicism.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:53 pm |
  4. RicksABigot

    If Santorum gets the GOP nomination, Obama will mop the floor with him. No independent (you know, the voters who actually elect Presidents, not the ones who vote for the same party every time without even engaging their brains) will never vote for him.

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

      I a non religious independent, and I won't vote for Obama since my brother got rejected from law school because he's white. His marks were ample better than many that got in, but he was a white man. I don't vote for racists that support race based policies like Obama.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:56 pm |
    • NOT MY CHAIR

      i know plenty of white men who have made it into law school. also Obama did not create affirmative action and has openly said so. maybe your brother should have gotten better grades or try a different law school

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

      @Andrew, so you are not voting for Obama because your brother did not make it into law school! That is just plain silly!

      February 9, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
  5. Andrew

    So the alternative to voting for Santorum is someone that makes laws based on me(a white man) not advancing in our society. Liberals are reallly racist, with a real Nazi flare. My son will have to have higher grades than everyone else who isn't a white male, and it still won't be good enough, since were poor, there's no scholarships just for poor white boys, unlike everybody else. The racism out of the left is the only reason I vote republican.
    Liberals want to punish the best and brightest.

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

      Andrew, I suggest you read up on history and on the definition of fascism! Fascism, is quite different from Liberalism. For starters, Fascist like to wrap themselves up in the flag, like to profess to be holier-than-thou, like to hate all those who are different from them, such as Gays, etc.

      February 9, 2012 at 1:09 pm |
    • malasangre

      i thought you were mad cause your brother got screwed out of law school somehow. now your kid. was great great grandpas slaves taken away mr. bitter

      February 9, 2012 at 1:47 pm |
    • Alex

      Most universities want more than just high grades. Some community service, sports, clubs, etc. would provide your son with scholarships. Now, you have to be more well-rounded for admissions to top schools...unless you have legacy... but that's a different story...

      February 9, 2012 at 3:14 pm |
  6. TWH

    Ron Paul 2012. Real, drastic, nation-saving changes is what we need.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:53 pm |
  7. Satros

    To me, these are mostly reasons why -not- to vote for Santorum.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:53 pm |
  8. Rob

    I they don't like evolution, they can always revert to the time when they thought the earth was flat and we were the center of the universe... and we can say: Sorry we bothered you with our science.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:52 pm |
  9. talofa

    10 reasons why Santorum can't beat Obama.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:52 pm |
  10. Vic of New York

    PLEASE DON'T FORGET US ! ! ! Democrats love Rick Santorum TOO ! ! ! You go Rick ! ....Just one request: Please keep Catholics out of womens' uterus and little boys anuses ! ! !

    February 9, 2012 at 12:52 pm |
    • bob

      GO VIC! you so craaaazy!

      February 9, 2012 at 12:54 pm |
    • bear79

      ROTFL!

      February 9, 2012 at 12:56 pm |
  11. Robert

    So many people vote for Santorum because he most closely reflects their position, HOWEVER, he does not have the ability to go head to head with Obama in debates or in the general election. ONLY Romney does. So make your choice; VALUES or ELECTABILITY

    February 9, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
  12. Charlie from the North

    I can think of 100 reasons not to vote for Rick Sanatorium but that is not why I am writing this. This is a warning to all of you who think "oh good choice Obama in a landslide against this man who is clearly out of touch and not ready to govern". Do not fool yourselves. Many people will vote for this man that you see as a monster. Not only that but he has the support of people who will vote come hell or high water. They are not the majority, but they don't need to be. They just have to be the majority of those who bother to vote. Don't believe me? Google Governor Paul LePage. Check the stats on how he won the election and check out what he wants to do to our public schools in Maine. Then tell me again why it is good news that tthe GOP is looking seriously at this clown Sanatorium.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
  13. Christine

    Kiki, my problem with your position, and that of the rest of the 100% anti-abortion crowd, is that you want the issue to be black and white and it's simply not. A close friend was recently pregnant with twins, and one twin was deformed in such a way that it was feeding off the second twin's blood flow. Letting the pregnancy run its "natural course" would have killed both twins before birth, and would have possibly killed my friend as well. She made the heart rending decision to terminate the malformed twin in order to save the life of the second baby. Criminalizing abortion would have stripped her of that choice, and possibly killed her as well.

    I think most people agree that it's immoral to abort a seven month old fetus who could survive outside the womb. But any blanket criminalization of abortion means that choices that should be between a mother and her doctor are instead given to a bunch of prosecutors anxious to penalize a woman who makes her own choice about her life and health and that of her children. I can't, and won't, vote for any politician who seeks that for America's future.

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

      Christine, in a case like you described, even the Catholic Church would be OK with terminating the one twin to save both the life of the other child and the life of the mother. That is the one exception the Church makes on the abortion issue, is that if it's the only way to save the life of the mother.

      February 9, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
  14. Sartre

    CNN is trash, how can you post this on your front page

    February 9, 2012 at 12:50 pm |
  15. no..

    time for the pope and bishops to pay for their destruction to small children. What pukes! And this guy is catholic? Proves his low level of intelligence.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:50 pm |
  16. Andrew

    I love that questioning the theory of evolution, a widely accepted theory by the scientific community, is a reason to like Santorum. He'll probably want to go back to saying the world is flat too.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:50 pm |
    • no..

      Some people say they never evolved. I agree. Wish they would though.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
    • Charlie from the North

      Yeah man, that's the formula: Take an established fact, put the word "controversial in front of at and the word theory behind it and you have a Christian Taliban cause: Check it out The controversial round earth theory,The controversial gravity theoryThe controversial golden rule theory

      February 9, 2012 at 12:56 pm |
  17. Barry Sharp

    I wonder if Santorum is against the death penalty? It is on God's top ten list. I also question Polygamy. He is always saying that Gay Marriage will create a gateway to polygamy. I don't see why he would be against polygamy. God was a big fan and it is in the Bible so it has historical presidence. And lets not even bring up the golden rule!!!!

    February 9, 2012 at 12:50 pm |
  18. ART

    wow they just listed most of the reasons why I don't like him. He will never be elected and Doug I'am not a drug dealer or a criminal and I'am a veteran and president Obama has my vote even if he does not campaign at all so your facts are crap

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

      Yup to Democrats facts are crap, your lies, hate, and selfishness are your gold.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:53 pm |
    • NOT MY CHAIR

      wait Doug i thought liberals were socialist and communists? that really doesn't go with selfishness... are you sure you know what the difference between liberals and conservatives are?

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

      SEMPER FI, Art!

      February 9, 2012 at 12:58 pm |
  19. rudix

    and i forgot is not afraid to challenge false science conceptions...for this you need character...and leadership....Thanks TheDimensionMachineDOTcom

    February 9, 2012 at 12:50 pm |
  20. Scott

    Reason #10 is "Santorum isn’t afraid to challenge science, questioning the theory of evolution and dismissing global warming as “a hoax.” Are you out of your mind? If that's the case then why don't we just flush every science curriculum and R&D dept out the window and turn all of that over to the Pope?

    February 9, 2012 at 12:50 pm |
    • NOT MY CHAIR

      he basically did by homeschooling his kids. he gets to pick and choose what he wants them to learn

      February 9, 2012 at 12:58 pm |
    • hilreal

      Actually the Pope and the official Catholic church sanction evolution and proclaimed no disagreement with the bible. I think the Catholic church learned their lesson with Galileo and are determined not to make the same mistake questioning science again. It's the literal born again types that don't understand or care to even learn about the sciences.

      February 9, 2012 at 1:05 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.