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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. Hal

    This list is sad......."He questions science?" – I didn't realize he was also himself a scientist....I am so sick of religion, period.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:10 pm |
    • Capitalism

      Enjoy your time in hell

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

      Well, not everyone can take the time to be educated, it is much easier to believe in fairy tales and then look down on people who value learning.

      February 9, 2012 at 1:30 pm |
    • uhhh

      Hell doesn't exist.

      February 9, 2012 at 1:32 pm |
    • MayorAdamWest

      What a sad state this country is in.

      February 9, 2012 at 1:42 pm |
  2. NorthropP61

    There's only one reason that rational voters love Santorum: If he runs against Obama, he'll lose in a landslide.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:10 pm |
    • Ronald Reganzo

      Rick can win and win big

      February 9, 2012 at 1:16 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      thanks Ronald, that laugh came at just the right time.

      February 9, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
  3. Toddles

    The more Santorum talks about religion being the reason to put someone in office, the more he sounds like George W Bush and Mike Huckabee (or dumb and dumberer). The fact is that he got the Anti-Mormon vote and that's all he's got. He says the reason to vote for him is his contrast with Obama. I don't call earmarking Trillions and raising the debt ceiling over and over contrast with Washington. I like the idea of reducing waste and firing people who's job is not critical to our country's protection or function. Period. PS I make less than 50 K / year.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:10 pm |
    • Capitalism

      There is a reason you make less than $50K a year.

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

      i thought it was the Democrates that pushed to raise the Debt ceiling?

      February 9, 2012 at 1:41 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      "There is a reason you make less than $50K a year."

      because the average is $42k a year?

      February 9, 2012 at 1:43 pm |
  4. MayorAdamWest

    This guy is itching for a war Iran. How does that jibe with the teachings of Christ?

    February 9, 2012 at 1:10 pm |
    • Jeff Williams

      More than you realize. A rise in the middle yeast is what these Christians long for.

      "End times" ring a bell?

      February 9, 2012 at 1:45 pm |
  5. Patrick

    The ironic horror here is that a number of these are perfectly good reasons to keep thins man away from decent society.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:08 pm |
    • Josh G

      HERE, HERE, Patrick.

      February 9, 2012 at 1:20 pm |
    • jw

      if you think what we have now is a Decent Society then we are screwed

      February 9, 2012 at 1:42 pm |
  6. youranidiot

    Most of these are the reasons conservatives love him and also why he would loose the general election to Big O. Its all about the middle, and Romney does that better than anybody, even Big O.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:08 pm |
    • Obamajoe

      Mitt is doing fine,,,,,,he is the best in GOP

      but Obama will beat him 🙂

      February 9, 2012 at 1:10 pm |
  7. Ben

    So basically, 8 of the 10 reasons are that he's a nut-job, and the other 2 are that he isn't the other guys.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:08 pm |
    • Capitalism

      The only nut job here is the one you gave to Barney Frank

      February 9, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
  8. rec

    THE SOUTH WILL NOT VOTE FOR A CATHLIC, END OF STORY!

    February 9, 2012 at 1:08 pm |
    • pat

      ouch

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

      Dream on fruit cake

      February 9, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
    • jw

      i would and i live in the south. therefore your agrument is not true.

      February 9, 2012 at 1:43 pm |
    • malasangre

      in the majority no. i grew up Catholic in NC when the population of "papists" was less than 1% and the whole state was one diocese. it was no different than being black to the goobers.

      February 9, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
  9. Perfect candidate?

    We will never have a perfect candidate for President. I'm interested in the one who wants to keep God in our country.The God who created me and keeps my heart beating! He promises to never leave or forsake me. I know he does the same for this country so I want to keep him in our country.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:08 pm |
    • mm

      ALLAH!

      February 9, 2012 at 1:10 pm |
    • hmm

      Worship how you want. No-one is saying that you can't. However most Americans agree that there should be separation of Church and State. If you want to live in a theocracy, move to Iran.

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

      Ever heard of the 1st Amendment? You know, the one making sure religion doesn't take over the government? No, apparently not.

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

      Weren't the colonialist escaping the government-religion entanglement in Europe?

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

      so a religious person that doesn't believe god is everywhere and can be run out of country. odd

      February 9, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
  10. daron

    10 reasons to love hitler?! the people attending his rallies to throw tomatoes not support a racist pig like him!! get a grip people it 2012 and that means we live in a world that DOES NOT DISCRIMINATE!!!!! STOP THE HATE NOW!!

    February 9, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
    • jw

      Did you just compare rick Santorum to Hitler?!? I bet your the kind of person that would scream "I'm not voting for no dirty JEW!" if Jesus Crist himself was running for President.

      February 9, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
  11. sf

    i can give you ten reasons WHY I DON'T! these religious idiots..they're no better than the religious nuts in the middle east!...and NO i don't mean muslims...i mean EXTREMISTS!

    christians are a bunch of idiot cult followers!

    February 9, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
    • Obamajoe

      Fake Christians ,,,right ?

      True Christians are good ,right ?

      February 9, 2012 at 1:08 pm |
    • jw

      must just chap your a$$ that someone wants to believe in something when you want everyone to beleive in nothing. I feel sorry for you.

      February 9, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
  12. atypical

    I long for the day when religion will be replaced with a higher ratio of intelligence.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
    • George P

      I long for the day when a person is free to worship who/what the please, espouse their beliefs, and be treated equally. But then, that would mean the end of the Democratic party wouldn't it.

      February 9, 2012 at 1:16 pm |
    • jw

      the day you pass on it will.

      February 9, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      "be treated equally"

      be treated equally to whom? religious groups already hold huge amounts of political power, far more than atheist organisations, so who do you think they should be treated equally to?

      February 9, 2012 at 1:47 pm |
    • Jeff Williams

      """that would mean the end of the Democratic party wouldn't it."""

      At least we would all be living in the 21st century. It's high time we abandon mythology as arbiter. We have the intellect, and we should ALL use it.

      February 9, 2012 at 1:48 pm |
  13. andboomgoesthedynamite

    The fact that #8 is a reason to love him is kind of disturbing. It was once a felony for a white person to marry a black person, too. Is that something to love someone for?

    February 9, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
    • Duanee in Fremont

      I guarantee you most of wish it was still a law. It's called fear of a brown planet (via marrying a black person, Asian, East-Indian, Hispanic, etc.).

      February 9, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
  14. Kevincarb

    Please post 10 reasons to Hate Santorum for this to even be fair... By the way... All of these reasons are horrible.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
  15. Kevin D.

    Uh, to those people bashing religion – you realize CNN's web content editor pushed for this to be prime (basically front page) for a four hour block so as to elicit these anti-religion rants and get people fired up against the GOP. If you don't think by posting herein, you're not part of the fomenting "news-propaganda to keep Obama in" then you are sadly mistaken.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
    • pat

      sign me up.

      February 9, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
    • mm

      You posted!

      February 9, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
  16. Columbus

    They stole this photo pose from Obama when he was running...typical Republicans...Lol...come up with something new! #OBAMA2012

    February 9, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
    • jw

      you cant "own" a pose. get over it.

      February 9, 2012 at 1:33 pm |
  17. travelinpants

    When all else fails, go back to the status quo/bakup plan. This guy is nothing new. The R party is desperate and have to put something or someone familiar to get the R nomination or else they have no chance of beating the current president.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
  18. Obamajoe

    Best choice for GOP:

    ===========Mitt Romney / Michael Bachmann===========

    Save some money for super PAC,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,GOP,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,you know what's your best choice ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

    February 9, 2012 at 1:06 pm |
    • NorthropP61

      Oh, yes please! But Romney's too savy to shoot himself in the foot (the way McCain did) with his choice of VP.

      February 9, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
  19. PhilZ

    Religion IS the root of ALL evil. But then again cattle will be cattle, Moooooo. Learn to think for yourself people and learn to walk without a crutch.

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

      Wrong,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

      only fake religion is

      February 9, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
    • Kevin D.

      What an arrogant, hateful comment. The root of all evil is man's lust for power. They use religion as a cover for it. Thanks though!

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

      Obamajoe-

      All religion is fake.
      All religion = fake, and fake religion = bad, therefore All religion = bad.

      It's science!

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

      Hey Fox,

      The only thing wrong with your logic is that science is essentially a religion! All this beliefs and theories people adhere to as truth... even without factual evidence.

      February 9, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
    • George P

      Isn't science the main religion today? After all...you cannot prove most of the scientific theories espoused that allege where/how man originated, how old the earth/solar system/universe is...or what is causing global warming. In fact science cannot create or recreate anything that has not been already created. Using the scientific method so loved by the world, the theory of evolution fails. So which way do I turn? If religion equals cattle, science is just another herd!

      February 9, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
    • CosmicC

      Drock and George P – neither of appear to understand the scientific method. Ask yourself if that's lack of information or an unwillingness to accept an approach that refuses to give a warm and fuzzy feeling.

      February 9, 2012 at 1:37 pm |
    • jw

      why cant we have both? Religion and science. They both serve there purposes. it doesnt have to be one way or the other. anyone screaming otherwise is just upset because they cant control your way of thinking.

      February 9, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
  20. Ben

    I would consider these cons against Santorum.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:05 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.