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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. Shakeshisheadwonderingly

    The question is not why the the hyper-religious like him (he is obviously one of them), but why any of the rest of us should...
    He wants to make teaching of creationism a requirement in schools! What's next? Spanish Inquistion 2.0 for the non-believers (or merely percieved non-believers)?

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

      Its exactly what the Athiests are pushing for right now.

      February 9, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
    • Lars

      Hmm... An angry mob of Atheists pushing their evil logic and fairness on everyone. Next think you know they'll want everyone to be treated equally before the law, and want freedom of speech, and decent schools that teach science, math, and English. What is this country coming to? How I long for the days when we teach faux science, scare our children with lies, and get to discriminate with anyone that looks or thinks different. Now those book burnings we're an awsome prelude to our Sunday morning fire and brimstone sermons!

      February 9, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
  2. toppgunnery

    CNN only pushes this guy cause they know if he gets the nomination (which he won't!), Oboma would definitely beat him!

    February 9, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
  3. B.

    “I want to know how God created this world. I am not interested in this or that phenomenon, in the spectrum of this or that element. I want to know His thoughts, the rest are details.” (Albert Einstein, as cited in Clark 1973, 33).

    So, in the beginning there was nothing.. then it exploded.... Order from disorder.. entropy in reverse.. no transitional fossils.. no explaination for cellular mechanics, RNA, or DNA.. planets spinning in all directions, spiral galaxies, and most of all NO explaination for the existence of LOGIC in the context of a purely chemical reactions... Man.. I'm an evangelical Christian and I think you may have more faith in the religion of evolution that many of my fellow believers..

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

      Albert Einstein was NOT a creationist. If you think he was, you are only revealing how little you know of what the man thought.

      February 9, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
    • Fallacy Spotting 101

      Root post by B. contains instances of the Prejudicial Language fallacy.

      http://www.iep.utm.edu/fallacy/#H6

      February 9, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
    • CosmicC

      Please obtain some more information before joining the conversation. Your personal lack of understanding does not invalidate anything.

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

      Your comment is spot on. Evolution is one of the most intellectually dishonest theories around. Despite the gross lack of evidence showing the transition from one species to another and despite the indisputable fact that life does not spontaneously generate from non-life (see Louis Pasteur), evolutionary theory persists because people are so wedded to their position.

      February 9, 2012 at 1:42 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      Sorry GT but evolution has far more evidence for it than 'it was magic' has.

      February 9, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
    • Lars

      You may want to do a little follow up on the "transitional fossils" topic. Actually there have been several of discoveries over the last few years of many of these "transitional" (your word not science) fossils. Dinosaurs with hair and feathers have been found. In other searches they've found new primate fossils that are filling in gaps between our ape cousins and modern humans. Of course you'd need to pick up those hard to find magazines like National Geographic to access these hard to find articles about recent scientific discoveries and theories (yes that was sacrasm for all you Santorum fans )

      February 9, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
    • GT

      Really, Cedar Rapids? You mean like how random mutations produced desireable attributes (hardly plausible), or how natural selection led to the creation of new species (please no Piltdown man or speckled moth hoax references).

      How 'bout for starters you help me understand how evolution explains "irreducible complexity". Surely, an enlightened intellect such as yourself can help out a poor, naive creationist such as I.

      February 9, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
    • GT

      Thank you Lars. I'll have to look into that, because up til now the fossil record is full of dead ends. After 150 million years, there ought to be an infinite amount of fossil evidence to support the evolution from one species to another. Consider this candid admission from David Raup, a geologist at the Field Museum in Chicago...

      "We are now 120 years after Darwin and the knowledge of the fossil record has been greatly expanded. We now have a quarter million fossil species... and, ironically we have even fewer examples of evolutionary transitions that we had in Darwin's time."

      As much as evolutionists want to believe their theory is true, the evidence does not support it.

      February 9, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
  4. gager

    We do not need a religious president. We need a smart president. Religious and smart are as different as night and day.

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

      Obama claims to be religious. In your opinion, is he stupid or a liar?

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

      Obama is a politician (that might be a cult, but certainly not a religion).
      What we need is for the majority of this country to value education and intelligence over arrogance and violence. What does it say when schools are more willing to cut teachers than the football program.

      February 9, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
  5. Ben LaBédaine

    10 reasons to terrify me about this kind of individual sitting in the oval office with his finger on the big red button.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
  6. D

    7. Santorum doesn’t just talk about opposing abortion, he’s legislated on it.
    7a. Santorum has participated in abortion; his wife had one in order to save her own life.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
  7. malasangre

    two months ago the protestant evangelicals would be hard pressed to admit catholicism is a christian religion. Ms. religion Bachman and her goofy husband belong to a Lutheran cult that disparages catholics at any turn. ever wonder why they only fostered girls?

    February 9, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
  8. Emery

    10 reasons to love a frothy mix of lube and feces? I think I'll have to pass on that one, out of sheer logic alone.

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

      Classy. Are you in junior high?

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

      And your logically thinking brain led you to post with "Lube and Feces"? you are not as logical as you think you are.

      February 9, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
    • Lars

      JW – google much? I guess you haven't typed "santorum" in to a search engine.

      February 9, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
  9. toppgunnery

    Santorum looks like a cub scout!

    February 9, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
  10. D.Beck

    Somebody ask him why he iignores decades and decades of Catholic Church cover-ups of priests molesting children! And as President, do we put this atrocity aside so he doesn't need to feel embarrassed?

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

      and the goobers thought Kennedy was a papist plant?

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

      does he actually ignore it? or was that just convient to say becasue it makes your post sound better.

      February 9, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
  11. Lisa

    I don't agree with any of the positions he holds on anything. Don't care how often he goes to church, he's still a flake.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
  12. MITT ROMNEY

    OK Rick, we've heard about the ten reasons why those loonies to the right love! Well, how about showing your birth certificate now?

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

      PSSSt sorry Mr. Romney Its loonies to the left......

      February 9, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
  13. Russell Hammond, Hollywood

    My experience is parents who home school their kids are whack jobs. No exception here. But I hope he gets the GOP nomination. Hilarity ensues.

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

      "Hollywood."

      'Nuff said.

      February 9, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
    • Russell Hammond, Hollywood

      @Steve – Jealous.

      February 9, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
    • Mark

      I agree... His nomination assures the best in election entertainment...My hope would be that this would be the Scopes Monkey Trial of our generations.. that this nonsense about biblical over science, literal interpretation vs moral interpretation will be over (again), at least until a whole new generation of crackpots come around.

      February 9, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      Agreed, one of my daughter's church friends is homeschooled because her mother didnt want her exposed to ideas or opinions at school that might contradict the bible.
      (oh, she is also banned from stuff like harry potter, percy jackson, even wizards of waverly place tv show)
      she is just going to be a fantastic functioning member of society isnt she? lol.

      February 9, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
    • jw

      Please explain your "experience" with homeschooling parents. i would like to know how "without exception" they are all wackjobs... please use specifics.

      February 9, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
  14. Ronald Bjorkland

    Add to the list of reasons: liar and bigot.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
  15. BKM

    He's just one more religious nutcase like the rest of you who meld new testament "Paulism's" and old testament cruelty as the particular need calls. To say Catholicism has any resemblance to the simple message forwarded by Jesus is such a sad statement about Western Culture.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
  16. lucy2

    Too bad he doesn't respect others' religious beliefs, or lack thereof, or the right for gay people to be "family men and women" too and be so devoted to their spouse and children. And I'd like to know why someone who works to combat AIDS in Africa is for abstinence only education in the US.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
    • GT

      You seem awfully intolerant of those who don't believe as you do.

      February 9, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      "GT – You seem awfully intolerant of those who don't believe as you do."

      lol, you just have to love the old 'if you dont accept intolerance you must be intolerant' argument.

      February 9, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
    • GT

      Truth is, by definition, intolerant. Unfortunately, too few are willing to seek Truth... just their own truth.

      February 9, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
  17. Lars

    I love him because: 1) his google search cracks me up. 2) he proves just how insane the conservative movement in the US is 3) he'll never beat Obama in a million years.

    Sign me up for Mr Fecal Matter!

    February 9, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
  18. Kiki

    If we see a woman exposing the child to harm by smoking or doing drugs while pregnant we feel she is being selfsih. Yet killing the child altogether is not. 😦 I have a very dear family member who has had an abortion. I am not trying to judge, just to maybe make just one woman think for a minute about what I'm saying.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
    • Lars

      Has is ever come to anyone's mind that no one wakes up and says "Hey – today seems like a good day to knocked up so I can spend a day in a hospital getting a fetus sucked out of my yohoo?" It doesn't happen – most women who have an abortion spend a lot of time debating and deciding their course of action. If anyone is making this decision lightly they probably should not be reproducing. Give me someone that has made an intelligent decision based on logic over an idiot that's keeping an unwanted child out of fear or ignorance any day. Besides – who am I to force someone into having a child they don't want. Do we really need our government so large to monitor and enforce pregancies? Will we start charging women who miscarry with murder?

      February 9, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
  19. toppgunnery

    religious putzes can love Sanitorian all over the board....the fact is he is NOT PRESIDENTIAL MATERIAL. Just becasue he sounded good in one debate doesn't make me seen any different!

    February 9, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
    • GT

      What exactly is "Presidential Material"?

      February 9, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
    • Lars

      And his sweater vests do not scream presidential material to me. They scream Wal-Mart special 100% imitation wool.

      February 9, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
    • GT

      Okay, you may have a point there Lars.

      February 9, 2012 at 2:45 pm |
  20. Recovering Republican

    Ten real reasons conservatives love Santorum:
    1) He'll do what they want.
    2) He's not Obama
    3) He is very white
    Oh who are we kidding??? There are only three reasons "Conservatives" like Snatorum.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
    • Kiki

      very white. haha I'm white and that made me laugh. (but no, color wont affect my decision 😉 )

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

      Hey, if libs can drool over the O-Man because he's (half) black, then what's the problem here?

      February 9, 2012 at 1:18 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.