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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. donnas

    as long as he stays out of my uterus, I don't care whether or not he gets the republican nomination.

    February 8, 2012 at 7:06 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      Ahh but he won't, and therein lies his unelectability.

      February 8, 2012 at 7:17 pm |
    • sam

      He intends to have both hands in whatever orifices he can reach, as often as possible.

      February 8, 2012 at 7:26 pm |
    • fauxhawk70

      Nice! Very funny! I like that!

      February 9, 2012 at 12:28 pm |
    • Andrew

      If he sticks his fingers in your uterus you have the right to call the cops. Your right to kill you babies will not be taken away.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:34 pm |
    • ThsIsNotReal22

      Actually the only one who want to get their hands in your uterus are the abortionists. Santorum wants to keep them away from you.

      February 9, 2012 at 1:20 pm |
  2. CoJo

    this is where the conservatives step over the line by trying to dictate other people's lives. They have the right to their own beliefs but they do not have the right to dictate another's or a business deal. The issue that comes to light is a business deal between Ellen DeGeneres and JCPennies. Unless conservatives group own the majority stock in compnaies, they do not have the right to dictate deals. This is a perfect example of what conservatives dictators (like Santorum) try to do.

    February 8, 2012 at 7:04 pm |
  3. DAnna Sviridova

    Santorum is the fabricated religious icon for the party faithful. His zealous followers are a minority when compared with thinking Americans who demand sane policies from government.

    The imaginary friend crowd will not win...now matter what the unseen whispered in their ears.

    February 8, 2012 at 7:01 pm |
    • rlowens1

      The Republicans know that this is a throw-away election. That is why we're getting all the clowns this time around.

      February 8, 2012 at 7:03 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      @rlowens1

      I sure hope your right. Nominating an extremist with no chance of winning the election will show how bad the platform is. Maybe in 2016 we'll have some remotely electable from the GOP.

      February 8, 2012 at 7:16 pm |
    • AAAAA

      Romney is an extremist now??? How is that??? I like this though...please underestimate him...

      February 9, 2012 at 5:05 pm |
  4. teacher

    The founding fathers were predominately Deists, not Christian. Deists do not believe in the divinity of Christ. They believed that the world was created by a perfect God and therefore He would not need to send a son to fix this world. They believed that Jesus was the greatest teacher that ever lived, but not the Son of God. Hence, the motto "In God we trust." They believed in religious freedom. By Santorum saying we need to go back to Christian beliefs, he is ignoring anyone who is not a Christian such as the Jewish. I am a Christian. I don't need a lying, cheating know-nothing telling me I am not living right. Pennsylvania got him out once – we will do it again. Check how PA taxpayers had to pay for his kids education when they didn't even live in the state.

    February 8, 2012 at 6:57 pm |
    • rlowens1

      The religious right introduced "In God We Trust" in 1956 – and, not by the Founding Fathers.

      February 8, 2012 at 6:59 pm |
    • teacher

      "In God We Trust" first appeared on the 1864 two-cent coin. It was Secretary of the Treasury Chase who first asked for a motto invoking God because of the Civil War. He didn't want America thought of as an ungodly nation.

      February 8, 2012 at 7:15 pm |
    • teacher

      I pushed POST too soon. I wanted to add that I stand corrected on the founding fathers coming up with that motto. But it was actually in 1861-1862 that Chase first wanted the motto put on coins. It had to be passed by Congress and we all know how long that takes. Now I am finished.

      February 8, 2012 at 7:19 pm |
    • MikeB

      God is such a 'generic' word. It can be defined as anything that one has their heart or mind set upon or a Deity that one pay homage to. So encouraging people to set their sights on something or more noble than themselves is actually a 'good' thing.

      February 8, 2012 at 7:19 pm |
    • Adam

      MikeB : Yeah, it can inspire you to crash an airplane into a building, just to get in good with your imaginary friend up in heaven. Oh, yeah , sorry... those guys were wrong about the imaginary friend, while you are right about the imaginary friend. How could anyone doubt that believing in things with no proof (faith) is not a good thing?

      February 8, 2012 at 10:54 pm |
  5. GOP Suicide

    Ok, so the very conservative are voting now in the GOP primary. There aren't enough of them who are registered to win the general election, even if every Tea Partier, Catholic, Baptist, and Mormon, etc. votes for the GOP candidate. Unless… there is a massive registration and get out the vote campaign by the religious right. Otherwise Obama wins a second term. I just don’t see a big enough commitment in the religious groups to pull an upset off.

    February 8, 2012 at 6:55 pm |
  6. rlowens1

    What is really scary is that, if Santorum is elected to the Presidency, it will really be his imaginary friend in charge – and, we will never get to meet Him face to face. He will always be calling the shots from out of the range of any cameras.

    February 8, 2012 at 6:55 pm |
    • MikeB

      Just what we need. Another brain dead President.

      February 8, 2012 at 7:03 pm |
  7. Shawn

    Santorum is super creepy. Who in their right minds would want a backwards thinking Theocratic extremist getting all up into all of our lives? No thanks. We don't want an American Taliban.

    February 8, 2012 at 6:49 pm |
  8. Fuyuko

    Santorum has some c-reepy views about privacy. He doesn't believe consenting adults have a right to privacy in their own homes. He also wants to take away states rights, as he wants to repeal gay marriage in states where it has been passed.

    February 8, 2012 at 6:49 pm |
  9. rlowens1

    I don't trust any adult with an imaginary friend who tells them how they should act, think, feel, and believe. That's just insane – period.

    February 8, 2012 at 6:39 pm |
    • MikeB

      If you don't hear voices then you're not thinking. Some actually work things out through meditation/prayer/pondering/etc ... Imaginary friends actual help atheist, even though they claim that they are just talking to themselves or projecting their thought process.

      February 8, 2012 at 6:46 pm |
    • rlowens1

      I've never met anyone who actually needed an imaginary friend; although, I have known many adults with imaginary friends. It seems to be a dishonest game they play with themselves and others. I want no part of it. It's just too bizarre.

      February 8, 2012 at 6:49 pm |
    • MikeB

      rlowens1 – Then you've never thought things through? Who was in your head with you thinking things through?

      February 8, 2012 at 6:55 pm |
    • rlowens1

      Look, I am under no delusion that I am not alone in my thoughts. Yes, I think things out – but, I realize that it is me thinking things out and not some Sky Daddy in there influencing me.

      February 8, 2012 at 6:57 pm |
    • MikeB

      rlowens1 – Just imagine how contained some of these nut cases are because they fear that they will be held accountable for their actions after they make the mortal get-a-way. What keeps you from sticking it to people? Some moral code justified by some imaginary ethics?

      February 8, 2012 at 7:13 pm |
    • rlowens1

      Humans are a colllective species. We depend on each other for our survival. Morality evolved as a survival mechanism for humans. It allows us to work with each other, instead of against each other, for our collective good. Morality just makes sense – no imaginary friend needed.

      February 8, 2012 at 7:33 pm |
    • MikeB

      The fragmented collective is feeding on one another. Which explains why some revile those that claim a 'collective' moral order based upon something that they perceive to be greater than themselves. The sense of supremacy by each leaves us as nothing more that creatures made up of little more that dust and ashes. Too bad there isn't an aspiration to be more than that.

      February 8, 2012 at 8:44 pm |
  10. RobinMO

    The American Taliban love this guy. Kiss your freedom goodbye if he is elected.

    February 8, 2012 at 6:38 pm |
    • well

      Why is he going to demand the right to infinitely detain any citizen in military custody, without trial or charges on a simple accusation of terrorism? Oh wait. That was Obama.

      February 8, 2012 at 6:39 pm |
  11. momoya

    Without religious fundamentalism, this guy wouldn't have a chance. The US should give the fundies their own president and territory; it'd be an interesting experiment.

    February 8, 2012 at 6:35 pm |
  12. well

    We must have an atheist government 'cause religion is a negative force. I hope it will work out better than the previous Atheist governments of Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot and Robespierre.

    February 8, 2012 at 6:32 pm |
    • seriously?

      Idiot.

      February 8, 2012 at 6:34 pm |
    • well

      Well thought out response. I stand in awe of your intellect. douchbagg poopiehead

      February 8, 2012 at 6:36 pm |
    • evolvedDNA

      god is doing a great job in Saudi and Iran, and oh oh Indonesia looks like it wants to behead some one..look out.

      February 8, 2012 at 6:49 pm |
  13. MikeB

    We already have a President that pushed his social doctrine upon us through legislation and executive orders. Must we go to the same extreme with Santorum?
    And when will the media call him on the carpet for bearing false witness about the other candidates?

    February 8, 2012 at 6:30 pm |
  14. JDSTARK

    He wants to return to theocracy. I don't. Everyone has something different when they turn the door of government. These people cannot see that. It is sickening. Hey ABC.... he is unmoved????? What kind of Catholic Christian is he?? He would be worse than Obama because if the HHS looses, then people will blame him if elected.
    They care about no one else BUT THEMSELVES.

    February 8, 2012 at 6:29 pm |
  15. Seriously?

    So much misinformation in the comments section....as usual. Please do your research people and don't listen to morons on CNN's comments board.

    You will get dumber for reading them. I followed them for a couple of weeks and think I've lost about 10 IQ points.

    February 8, 2012 at 6:25 pm |
    • Huh?

      Yet you took the time to post your garbage...now you too are part of your own dumber club.

      February 8, 2012 at 6:42 pm |
  16. Jmanknows

    Its a fact by observation of the comments above this country is in a state of moral and social decay. We are a filthy ignorant people who believe "all roads" lead to heaven, anyone can marry anyone or anything and that liberals make the best politicians. Rick Santorum is proof that Americans are sick of what has happened to this country and want it back. I look forward to watching the debate between Santorum and Obama. BO will not be able to sweet talk his way around "this one." God bless this evil country and its socially retarded people! RS for President!

    February 8, 2012 at 6:23 pm |
    • lol

      please rip your vas deferens out with a fork so you dont spawn more imbeciles like you.
      kthx!

      February 8, 2012 at 6:40 pm |
    • rlowens1

      I would love to watch a debate between BO and RS. RS wouldn't stand a chance on any of the issues.

      February 8, 2012 at 7:44 pm |
  17. Truthfully

    David- he wasn't homeschooled.
    abcdxyz- you read it on a website? Hmmmm
    Rev JT- what clowns? Santorum never said or even implied he wants a theocracy.
    lathebiosas- who is trying to rewrite history? The fact is most of the founding fathers were Christians or at least respected Christian principles. I wouldn't even expect you to know these facts if you went to government schools.
    All of your comments verify your ignorance. I suspect you are all products of our liberal education (indoctrination) system.

    February 8, 2012 at 6:21 pm |
    • Jmanknows

      Amen! Amen!

      February 8, 2012 at 6:24 pm |
    • well

      Stop confusing us with facts. Reality make head hurt. Not support me.

      February 8, 2012 at 6:28 pm |
    • Why so stupid?

      No, he's never used the word theocracy. He's just simply spoken about what he's going to do once he's in office, and those points have ESSENTIALLY MADE IT PLAIN IT IS HEADED TOWARD A THEOCRACY YOU DELUSIONAL FCKNUT.

      February 8, 2012 at 6:29 pm |
    • sam

      God please not this again. The founding fathers had a respect for religion, but no, they were not christian. I know you want that to be true. They weren't. This is not a christian nation, it will never be a christian nation. If you want one of those, go start one.

      February 8, 2012 at 6:30 pm |
    • seriously?

      Funniest part here is the reference to indoctrination while you spout off nonsense that isn't even true.

      February 8, 2012 at 6:31 pm |
    • JDSTARK

      Why is it that most of these people call anyone LIBERAL WHEN THEY ASK QUESTIONS THAT HURT????
      Just answer that for once.

      When people take your money, it is not nice for these people to question because they fear retaliation from religious leaders. In a faith that says fear not, they are afraid of these folks. There is no love but fear. It is sickening.

      When are we going to stop being afraid of wackjobs that threaten people like bullies when they themselves should be practicing what they preach???? And when are the laypeople in these houses of worship going to realize that they are not the authority they think they are.

      These homeschoolers can be threatening. I write against them a few times and I get threats on my nine year old blog. I have been told that I am going to "hell" by demigods who want everyone to have old books and no school. They are control freaks and need to either be investigated and have their kids taken away from them.

      February 8, 2012 at 6:35 pm |
    • well

      Sam, you are right. No more than 85% of Americans are Christian. And all the founding fathers were actually closed minded dogmatic atheists.

      February 8, 2012 at 6:35 pm |
    • JDSTARK

      Answer this. Why is it that most of these people call anyone LIBERAL WHEN THEY ASK QUESTIONS THAT HURT????
      Just answer that for once.

      When people take your money, it is not nice for these people to question because they fear retaliation from religious leaders. In a faith that says fear not, they are afraid of these folks. There is no love but fear. It is sickening.

      When are we going to stop being afraid of wackjobs that threaten people like bullies when they themselves should be practicing what they preach???? And when are the laypeople in these houses of worship going to realize that they are not the authority they think they are.

      These homeschoolers can be threatening. I write against them a few times and I get threats on my nine year old blog. I have been told that I am going to "hell" by demigods who want everyone to have old books and no school. They are control freaks and need to either be investigated and have their kids taken away from them.

      February 8, 2012 at 6:36 pm |
    • evolvedDNA

      Well.. 85% may claim to be Christian, but I would bet that a lot of those do not believe but follow the herd to keep any anger from coming their way. Look at the venom that is produced when facts go against what the bible claims.. evolution, for example. those with a lot of believers in the family would have a lot of grief if they questioned the myths. 85% belief does not make it a fact...look at the belief in a flat earth it would have been much higher than 85%.

      February 8, 2012 at 7:05 pm |
  18. lathebiosas

    All of the above is why he won't win anything except the hearts of the religious conservatives.....

    February 8, 2012 at 5:59 pm |
  19. David

    "Santorum isn’t afraid to challenge science," .. lol .that is hilarious given that the whole basis of science is to challenge it. Scientist do it everyday. The only difference is they actually have a basis for their opposition instead of a gut feeling. Perhaps he probably should have spent less time being home schooled (brainwashed) and more time learning about science.

    February 8, 2012 at 5:58 pm |
    • Thinking

      He is in good company as the Bible records Jesus as being a literal, 7 day creationist. It is not easy to thinking people to dismiss the obvious, that this complex world did not come into existence by chance. Stop using intolerant speech and grow up to being respectful to those who differ with you.

      February 8, 2012 at 6:24 pm |
    • Fallacy Spotting 101

      Post by "Thinking" is an instance of the Argument from Ignorance fallacy.

      http://www.iep.utm.edu/fallacy/

      February 8, 2012 at 6:47 pm |
    • evolvedDNA

      He may not be afraid to challenge science but is he going to get used to losing?

      February 8, 2012 at 7:10 pm |
    • Adam

      Thinking: The Bible is no proof

      February 8, 2012 at 10:55 pm |
    • Cameron

      HAHA well said David

      February 9, 2012 at 4:02 pm |
  20. abcdxyz

    Re point number 9: Santorum’s big on compassionate conservatism, I just read this on another website: "While campaigning yesterday in Woodland Park, Colorado, GOP contender Rick Santorum told a sick child and his mother that they shouldn’t complain about the exorbitant cost of his medication because some people spend $900 on iPads. He appeared unmoved by the plight of the family, staunchly defending drug companies’ right to charge whatever they want." Really?

    February 8, 2012 at 5:58 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.