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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. Kevin

    That's great that he home schooled his kids. No mention of how the multi-millionaire had the crumbling school district foot the bill. Guy's a dirtbag.

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

      I guess if Santorum wins some more primaries, that story of him ripping off that school district will come to light nationwide.

      February 9, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
    • Tell

      That's what hypocrites do. Wolves in Sheep's clothes

      February 9, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
  2. ReasonAnimal

    Christians are being diluted now a days, because their claims about our universe, about morals and about truth are clearly left with no argument anymore. This prices has been happening since Copernicus and only now we are seeing reason gain momentum. The Christian cult must be treated with absolute laughter, and I claim the right to do so. CNN is a shame. This belief that religious is synonymous of virtue has to stop. This is a secular country, claiming to be the most "advanced" and yet people still talk about bronze age stupidity.

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

      I believe we should permit each person to believe who and what he/she will. I may not agree with all beliefs discussed here, but admire someone who stands for what he/she believes. And just because one does not agree, does not make their beliefs outdated or irrelevant.

      February 9, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
    • Noigiler

      @smc: You said, " I may not agree with all beliefs discussed here, but admire someone who stands for what he/she believes. And just because one does not agree, does not make their beliefs outdated or irrelevant."

      If someone still believes that the earth is flat (as did all of humanity at one point) is that belief not outdated or irrelevant? If someone believes in creationism that belief is equally outdated and irrelevant as the science supporting evolution is as compelling as the science supporting the geometry of the Earth. (The fact that it requires a little more intelligence to understand vs. just looking at a picture of Earth from space does not make the science any less compelling.)

      February 9, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
  3. Christ

    If the majority of Americans are not disgusted by this charade, there is absolutely no hope for this country.

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

      I believe that the majority of Americans are not going to vote for Santorum, he appeals to the fringe.

      February 9, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
    • smc

      I am not sure what you are referring to here. Religion and having a belief system, which is what religion by definition is, whatever that may be, is a standard that all Americans should seek. If guides daily decisions, abhors greed and dishonesty, and instead encourages integrity, kindness, charity, etc. Most religions teach these as their basis. If we as individuals or as a nation do not possess a moral foundation then that should be disheartening to us all.

      February 9, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
  4. Finally there's proof

    So is this a top ten list of why religious conservatives are insane and should be avoided at all costs?

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

      And at least he stands for something. He believes what he stands for. And has demonstrated that. What do you stand for?

      February 9, 2012 at 1:09 pm |
  5. Scarecrow

    Great! 10 MORE reasons why I won't be voting for Santorum.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:57 pm |
  6. ReasonAnimal

    Christians are being diluted now a days, because their claims about our universe, about morals and about truth are clearly left with no argument anymore. This prices has been happening since Copernicus and only now we are seeing reason gain momentum. The Christian cult must be treated with absolute ridicule, and I claim the right to do so. CNN is a shame. This belief that religious is synonymous of virtue has to stop. THis is a secular country, claiming to be the most "advanced" and yet people still talk about bronze age stupidity.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:57 pm |
  7. LuisWu

    Anyone that doubts evolution is a moron.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:57 pm |
    • What???

      If every living thing evolved from the same genetic material why didn't everything evolve along more closely related lines? Under that idea blood should be blood and skin should be skin and organs should be organs therefore interchangable?

      February 9, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
    • bec

      do you just accept everything you are told to be true? is it not healthy to question THEORIES (theory being an idea or concept not yet proven)? there IS a gap in the geological record that hasn't yet been filled by definitive proof that we came from apes. not to say that creatures are not able to adapt to their environment, either. However, i rather enjoy the thought that i am a human being and created as something higher in dignity (and given free will, which no ape or creature has) – than being the long-created spawn of some hairy creature that hangs from trees and we laugh at in zoos. call it human pride.

      February 9, 2012 at 1:23 pm |
  8. Dan

    So do ANY of those reasons actually qualify him to be leader of the free world? Sounds like it qualifies him to be head of his church council – good for him and probably good for his fellow parishioners. But since we have a government based on separation of Church and State – what actual qualifications does he have to run the State part of things? That list made me even more worried about him.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:56 pm |
  9. John Henson

    Challenging evolution is sound thinking. Science is empirical: it deals with measurements and physical observations in the present. Evolution, which seeks to explain beginnings by making suppositions about the distant past, is not science.

    However, I think not believing in Global Warming is foolish, since this IS science.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:56 pm |
    • d777

      Wow you just contradicted yourself in your reply. Global Warming is not scientific at all as the only data they have is from a small sample of the earths complete history, maybe 1% of the lifespan of earth. There were not thermometers on earth 1000 years ago. We are warming from the little ice age. Geez is post is sad

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

      You clearly don't understand evolution at all. I suggest you read a book on evolution written by a scientist (and not a creationist).

      February 9, 2012 at 12:59 pm |
    • Noigiler

      Science = Observe -> Develop theory -> Develop predictions based on the theory -> Observe if the predictions are true -> Modify theory -> Repeat

      Evolution Theory is as pure an application of the scientific method as exists. The recursive cycle of refinement of Evolution Theory based on empirical observations is a thing of beauty. Not a single empirical observation has been made that refutes the Theory, despite countless creationists that would love to find such evidence.

      It's staggering how Creationists reject Evolution Theory without any evidence to refute it yet accept God without any evidence to support it. Strange breed.

      February 9, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
    • ecbutler

      For something to be accepted by the scientific community as a theory it is petty much considered fact. They have enough evidence that can be tested repeatedly to see the same results that they are 99% sure of the matter. They call it a theory to leave room for the 1% chance they are missing something. Nothing in science is considered absolute fact. Gravity is just a theory in science. And as I said before, you can make observations, you can test it, it is science.

      February 9, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
  10. Michael

    He should be renamed Rick Sanctomomious. I'm sure the Pope must love him but anyone not wanting women's rights ended and contraception made illegal not to mention believing Jesus wasn't around with dinosaurs better not vote for him come November if he were to win the nomination. I also assume he'd want to make it so all mothers of still borns had to take them home too. Way to traumatize other siblings Rick!

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

    I should add – several states with strict fetal homicide laws have started to investigate and prosecute women who have suffered miscarriages under the theory that they somehow caused the miscarriage. Having had several family members suffer miscarriages, I know that it is one of the worst things that can happen to a woman next to losing a child. The thought that on top of their misery, these women might be criminally prosecuted makes me absolutely terrified. That's enough of a reason to vote against the right wing.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:55 pm |
  12. Noigiler

    In addition to all his other misogyny towards large swaths of our society, Santorum has a unique view of history:

    "The idea that the Crusades and the fight of Christendom against Islam is somehow an aggression on our part is absolutely anti-historical." - Rick Santorum, 2/22/11

    So, yeah, I agree with other posters who imagine a Santorum-led government as equivalent to the Taliban. Christian Sharia law would be his desired end game.

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

      would you prefer the socialist regime that is in power now that is bringing this country to ruin and trying to take away our God-given rights...not to mention that they are most unConsitutional?!

      February 9, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
  13. ecbutler

    Also anyone who questions the theory of evolution is just an idiot and obviously has never received any education on the matter . The evidence is undeniable just the same as the evidence for gravity. Gravity is just a theory too by the way. If you fallow the original creationist theory which is what his beliefs are based off of, youll see that supposedly God gives everyone different birth rights in society. God decided that people at the highest place in society should be there as their god given right, and poor people are meant to be at the lowest level of society as their birth right. But oh wait, I forgot we manipulate the "word of god" to fit our current lifestyles in society.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:55 pm |
  14. Tell

    I am from PA where Santorum is from. Just to let you know, the people of PA voted him out of the Senate because of his views.
    This guy would probably sell his Mother for power. His religious views are only to appease the religious fanatics so they will vote for him. He got voted out because one of his views is that there should not be Social Security and Medicare.
    If he wants to quote the Bible then he should also acknowledge the fact that God himslef gave us the freedom to chose, so who the heel is he to try to impose his views and will on us???
    Get lost Santorum!
    , I would never vote for an armpit like that

    February 9, 2012 at 12:55 pm |
  15. Wastrel

    Reason 10: Santorum isn’t afraid to challenge science, questioning the theory of evolution and dismissing global warming as “a hoax.” In other words, he denies reality and is incapable of thinking and reaching conclusions when presented with facts. What a wonderful president he will make - NOT.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:54 pm |
  16. Elliot

    When you surround yourself with level headed open minded people everyday you tend to forget how many ignorant people that are out there, knowing that Santorum has won even one state is depressing and reminds me of how many idiots are out there.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:54 pm |
  17. ecbutler

    Santorum is D bag that is to ignorant to separate his personal religious views from what is best for a religiously diverse country.

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

      I disagree with Santorum on 99.9% of his positions, but no need to call him a D bag. He is a very decent guy, a good man. He loves his family, and actually has compassion for the poor and working class. But he is totally misguided on his world viewpoint by his religion. Demonizing Rick is doing to the GOP what they have done to Obama. Even though you are upset, do not fall to their level.

      February 9, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
    • ecbutler

      I hear where your coming from but there is no one I dislike more than people who try to impose their religious views on other people. I believe its one of our most important rights to believe in whatever we choose. By not accepting that other people have their own personally beliefs and not respecting them you are making the world a worse place. This is where most conflicts arise and the same line of thinking that makes Muslim extremest so hateful. I know its probably not appropriate to call him a D bag but I will stand by my words haha.

      February 9, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
  18. Craig De

    *****************BRAVO CNN BRAVO!!***************************** Your front page artical on Santorum is GREAT! Thank You CNN!

    February 9, 2012 at 12:54 pm |
  19. DC

    @ Deke: The current President is christian, as were the 42 men who were President before him. I would argue that you still can't get elected in this country if you're NOT christian. Imagine a candidate standing up and saying, "I'm an atheist" or "I'm a muslim". Look at Romney and Huntsman. Look at the scalding Joe Lieberman took from the 'religious right' a few years ago.

    Let's be careful not to start painting christians as some persecuted social minority here...

    February 9, 2012 at 12:54 pm |
  20. Christine

    I could never and would never vote for someone who claims to be a "Christian" man – but yet does not love and accept all people – you know, like Christ did! He is a hateful, close-minded, hypocrite. Leader of our nation? NO WAY!

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

      Agree...............

      February 9, 2012 at 1:00 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.