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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. Bob

    Santorum is an idiot. A political hack trying to create a Xtian Taliban theocracy in this country.

    Time for that boy to shut up and go home. We don't need his BS polluting this country.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:01 pm |
    • DC

      The irony of "Christian conservatives" condemning "radical Islam" cannot possibly be lost on them, can it?

      February 9, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
  2. Igor

    Are you kidding me? Santorum is the definition of ignorance.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:01 pm |
  3. randall

    Reason numbers 1 through 100 NOT to vote for Santorium – He belongs in a mental hospital for his severe delusions.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:01 pm |
  4. Peacemaker

    Wow. Okay. I am a Catholic, cradle Catholic, married 39 years to the same wonderful man, mother of four, grandmother, I would not vote for Rick Santorum because he is too extreme. I am a Liberal Catholic, of the the 54% of Catholics who voted for Pres. Obama in 2008 and will vote for him again.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:01 pm |
  5. Thomas

    Isn't it funny that most of the reasons social conservatives love Rick Santorum are exactly the same reasons everyone else hates Rick Santorum. Like for example, number 10, what mostly sane or rational person would consider that a possible attribute?

    February 9, 2012 at 1:00 pm |
  6. Johnny

    Why is it that when a christian speaks many people feel offended even If the Christian only says amen, but when an atheist or a gay speak even if they use offensive language it is all right? funny!

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

      You're allowed to say 'amen', you're not allowed to say 'my 2000 year old book written by delusional old men is now the law'. There's a difference.

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

      The same reason that it's more socially acceptable to make fun of any majority. I'm not saying it's right, but it's how it is. The idea that Christians are somehow "under attack" in this country is laughable. They are still the overwhelming religious majority, and we are still at a point at which being anything except Christian or Jewish is not univerally acceptable. I know atheists who are basically "in the closet" because they are afraid to tell their families, coworkers, neighbors, etc. I have a good friend from college who adopted Buddhism 15 years ago, but still goes to church every Sunday because he lives in a small town and is afraid of "what the neighbors will think". So let's not get too deep into the whole "persecuted Christians" rant here please.

      February 9, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      Its funny DC but my daughter was talking to her great aunt the other day when the great aunt suddently realised that from the conversation they were having that I am not a believer. She apparently kind of gasped and then asked my daughter....'do you mean he is an atheist?' .....except apparently she didnt say atheist but instead mouthed it quietly as if it was some shameful thing that shouldnt be mentioned aloud. lol.

      February 9, 2012 at 1:26 pm |
  7. Dave

    This country's founders were running away from people who had the narrow my-way-or-the-highway religious views of Santorum.

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

      Yes, that is one of the reasons the founders fled from UK and established a SECULAR republic. The founders and many influential church leaders of the time time not want govt corruption to infect the church. And the same holds true as well, keep church corruption out of govt. Just a couple of reasons why the separation of church and state is extremely important.

      February 9, 2012 at 1:06 pm |
    • DC

      Two quick points.

      First, it's ironic that the UK is now significantly more religiously diverse and tolerant than the US, including a 25% minority that openly identifies themselves as "non-religious".

      Second, to the point about churches not wanting the line blurred either, I'm interested to see how the GOP reconciles John Boehner's current crusade against government interference in church affairs regarding contraception in church-sponsored hospitals with Santorum's insistence on infusing the church into government affairs. Quite the tightrope.

      February 9, 2012 at 1:20 pm |
  8. brutus

    Great guy, actually someone with heart.

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

      I do not believe he has a "heart."

      February 9, 2012 at 1:02 pm |
    • Fox

      I'd rather have a guy with a brain, particularly when it comes to running the country.

      February 9, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
  9. Brian Brooks

    How could you omit Number 11 : "believe the Earth is Flat"

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

      hahahahaha!

      February 9, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
    • ThsIsNotReal22

      Yeah... he doesn't believe that... and neither do is supporters. I guess you think you're hilarious though.

      February 9, 2012 at 1:06 pm |
  10. Kiki

    I meant to also mention how when Christ is baptized by immersion by John the Baptist the Holy Spirit descended upon Him. He could not have descended upon himself. 3 in purpose, not too mysterious, and pretty amazing really.

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

      Now is that when Jesus was a teenager?

      February 9, 2012 at 1:06 pm |
  11. travelinpants

    Santorum is the same ole thing that Bush I and II were. Religous Conse vat ives ar e a bunch of concret e brained religously ra cis t big ots etc. Th ey st an d fo r di vid ing thi s country under the pretext of so cal led religou s views. As if a rea l ch ris tian do esn t see th rou gh th e ploy of divid e an d con quer.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:59 pm |
  12. dale

    So he follows the made up laws of a cadre of pedophiles in rome. There is something to be proud of. What a country we elect morons based on how delusional they are.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:59 pm |
  13. peaches

    I am confused, if he is against abortion, why did his wife have one?

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

      'Do as I say, not as I do'

      February 9, 2012 at 1:06 pm |
    • Jon

      She didn't have an abortion, she went into early labor with a child that was dying naturally.

      February 9, 2012 at 1:09 pm |
  14. DC

    To clarify my previous post, I am not suggesting that Romney and Huntsman are not christian. If Mormons consider themselves christian, then that's good enough for me. I'm not a religous scholar, and I'm not knowledgeable enough in theology to make an intelligent argument as to whether they are or not. My point was simply that the mere perception that they are not is enough to make their beliefs an issue for some "evangelicals".

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

      DC, this is not in any way to attack you, as you stated that you were satisified that they were. But how could anyone not notice that the Mormon church is actually called the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The term "Mormon" is simply a nickname taken from one of the prophets who left record in their Scriptures (the Book of Mormon)

      February 9, 2012 at 1:02 pm |
    • travelinpants

      Mormons are not christians. they believe that Mr. Smith, not Jesus is the Messiah. much like muslims who believe that jesus was just a prophet leading up to Mohammad, like John the baptist was to Jesus.

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

      travelinpants, have you read the Book of Mormon and Bible to back that up? (as those are the Scriptures that the LDS people use) I would be very interested to see proof of that accusation. I'm sure you have proof, or you wouldnt spew such words, correct? I cant wait to hear back.

      February 9, 2012 at 1:06 pm |
    • DC

      @Kiki. To be perfectly honest, I wasn't sure of the proper abbreviation (LDS, CJCLDS, etc), and so I took the lazy route and just used "Mormon". Very fair to call me out on that. I think points like that are important, especially with Romney's current candidacy. Thanks!

      February 9, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
  15. martint

    Wow this rant has set mankind back by at least 1400 years! I am amazed that in the year 2012 we are still having these kinds of discussions.

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

    Rick Santorum would like to see "Roe vs Wade" overturned

    Then poor women could return to dying from botched 'back alley coat hanger' procedures – and wealthy women could go back to travelling to Europe for their abortions.....

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

      ... they could always stop killing babies, couldnt they?

      February 9, 2012 at 1:02 pm |
    • Switters

      Kiki-

      That's really a 'personal choice' isn't it....?

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

      It is. You are right. But what I would like is for the women who make this "choice" to realize that they are not only choosing for themselves, but for their unborn children as well. What choice do they have? Would you, given the choice, choose to be killed by your mother/a dr? The child has no voice. The mother is in complete control. She isnt hurting HERSELF, she is hurting her CHILD. Just something to consider.

      February 9, 2012 at 1:09 pm |
  17. Global Traveler

    What is his appeal? Birds of a feather flock together. Great minds think alike....and fools seldom differ.

    He is a moron. He appeals to other morons. Plain and simple. If this man had his way there would be witch hunts that would make McCarthy seem like a uniter.

    February 9, 2012 at 12:58 pm |
  18. us1776

    10 reasons to love Santorum:

    1. I'm Gettin' My Religion All Over You.
    2. I'm Gettin' My Religion All Over You.
    3. I'm Gettin' My Religion All Over You.
    4. I'm Gettin' My Religion All Over You.
    5. I'm Gettin' My Religion All Over You.
    6. I'm Gettin' My Religion All Over You.
    7. I'm Gettin' My Religion All Over You.
    8. I'm Gettin' My Religion All Over You.
    9. I'm Gettin' My Religion All Over You.
    10. I'm Gettin' My Religion All Over You.

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

      thats 10 reason to hate him

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

      better than getting santorum all over you...

      February 9, 2012 at 1:00 pm |
  19. Elliot

    Santorum Scrootie McBoogerson likes to play with dead babies.

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

      It will be interesting to see what the general public makes of that story now that Romney and Gingrich have turned their attack dogs on him. The Frothy One will not hold up well once people get to know more about him.

      February 9, 2012 at 1:01 pm |
  20. Bucky

    Can't have someone like this be president who won't keep the line of church and state separate. Sorry but religion has been a hindrance on human understanding, scientific and medical progress. Do you people know that guys like Peyton Manning and other athletes now go to other countries to get their medical work done? We aren't falling behind anymore, we have fell behind. Enough of this questioning scientific fact. We hit a low under Bush because he wouldn't allow advanced studies in many areas and this guy would be a thousand times worse. I hope he wins his nomination however because he can't win the big house.

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

      What does it profit a man (country) to gain the world but lose its soul? Just because we can do anything we put our minds and hands to do doesn't mean we should do it.

      February 9, 2012 at 1:10 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.