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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. Will

    Religious fundamentalism is the enemy of freedom, rigths and equality, and thus is unAmerican. We don't need this cross licking clown in office.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
    • Will

      *rights. Sorry for the typo.

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

    In other words, the more hypocritical, the better? Conservatives want smaller government, except that they want a huge military, immoral foreign wars and mass murder, and an oppressive government that forces kook-religios beliefs down everyone's throat. Sorry – not interested in moralizing by catholics, whose church runs the world's largest pedophile club, acquiesced to genocide in Europe during WWII, appointed an ex hitler-youth member to popehood, and activelyfacilitated Nazis fleeing to South America after the war to escape justice. No thanks. Culture war? No – it's a crusade for immorality and hypocrisy.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
  3. Duanee in Fremont

    #11 – he wants to keep the U.S. pure and white and thinks most African-Americans are on welfare as his ignorant statements in Iowa proved.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
  4. Gary

    The problem with Santorum: Though he is a great fit for the religious right conservatives, he is far from perfect towards the average American Citizen. People are not so polarized as someone such as he is. Santorum's political views are far too extreme to win over most Americans and will develop some serious fears towards many a people.
    Mitt Romney is not bad nor good, much can be said about many of our past Presidents, including our current President. Santorum could seriously throw this Country in social turmoil.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
  5. EastCoastMike

    I just read ten reasons not to vote for Rick Santorum. This is one scary individual who does not belong in a position of power.

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

      God holds the most powerful position ever, and he is far more extreme than Santorum, and, you are 100% accountable to him, what do you have to say about that?

      February 9, 2012 at 1:30 pm |
  6. anon-i-mouse

    Pretty much the entire list above is why most of us find him so vile. The fact that the man wants to legislate his faith on the rest of us is frightening. At the same time, he accuses the President of trampling on religious freedoms because he wants women to have adequate health coverage. The guy is a frightening lunatic.

    Obama 2012!

    February 9, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
  7. Joe Six Pack

    The guy has no platform! The US is going into a death spiral.. The debt is out of control, we have wars all over the place, people are losing their jobs, homes, and retirement savings, our civil liberties are being taken away, we're being taxed to death to bail out the rich, inflation is going up, and this guy has got nothing .... all he's got is he goes to church a lot and doesn't like gays. That's not a platform for a presidential candidate at this critical point in history.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
  8. Simon

    The absolute best thing about Santorum is that he will help re-elect President Obama.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
  9. NorthropP61

    Oxymoron: "compassionate conservatism" – always good for a laugh.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
  10. CJ

    You forgot to mention that Santorum wants the United States to still be in Iraq and he is a war-hawk and our country does not have the money to fund all these wars. I suspect if Jesus was President of the United States he would not be so quick to go to war.

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

      He would tell us to mind our own business.

      February 9, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
    • CJ

      Santorum is more concerned about what is in Israel's best interest instead of what is in the United States best interest.
      In addition he backed the idea of killing scientist that work in Iran at their nuclear plant and that is against the law in the United States.

      February 9, 2012 at 1:24 pm |
  11. rickp530

    I can give you 3 reasons not to vote for this guy.
    1. Home schooling instead of public or private. His children are taught strictly from his views.
    2. He is trying to incorporate religion and politics as one in his decision making.
    3. He is very anti-gay. I feel a president should be more open like Obama instead of spreading the word of hate against gays.
    4. Santorum said the U.S. should not have objected to Mossad killing an Iranian nuclear scientist who was helping to develop a nuclear program that threatened Israel and the stability of the world.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
    • Ronald Reganzo

      Where are the 3 reasons for not voting for Rick?

      February 9, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      "Ronald Reganzo – Where are the 3 reasons for not voting for Rick?"

      thats true, he ended up giving 4 reasons.

      February 9, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
  12. Nannergrrl

    Another reason: dead fetus family photos! That's not distrubing. At all.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
  13. tim

    These are reasons to like Santorum? The author has highlighted all of the reasons most people don't like him.

    There is nothing here about foreign policy, the economy, immigration, infrastructure, or the environment. (Well, there is the thing about the hoax, but really, read some academic journals. You sound dumb.)

    When there is something to like about Santorum on policy, I'll pay attention. But this post reads like he's running for Pope.

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

    This passion obviously was missing during yesterday's visit to Allen, Texas. Only a handful of people showed up and only a few people left with his yard signs. Most people just politely clapped and rolled their eyes during his speech. He didn't even get his facts correct on the price of natural gas and it's impact in North Texas!

    February 9, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
  15. Nancy M. B.

    Religious conservatives scare the hell outta me, especially ones who want to take my reproductive rights away from me.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
    • Joe

      Who told you you have "rights" to reproduction? You don't, those are privileges given to you from above, get off from your arrogance.

      February 9, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
    • Jeff Williams

      """Who told you you have "rights" to reproduction? You don't, those are privileges given to you from above, get off from your arrogance."""

      What an ignorant and condescending thing to say. What is your basis for saying such nonsense?

      February 9, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      "those are privileges given to you from above, get off from your arrogance."

      looks like the 'one above' is the one that is arrogant. Talk about ego trip.

      February 9, 2012 at 2:05 pm |
    • Joe

      Mr Williams, before we get any deeper, please explain to me, when did reproduction became a "right" and who defined it as such?

      February 9, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
  16. kd

    Yep, Santorum actually walks the walk on the things he believes. Too bad what he believes is completely insane, hateful, prejudiced, economically disastrous, and so completely out of touch with an America of 100 years ago!

    February 9, 2012 at 1:16 pm |
  17. Steve

    All the reasons this idiot listed for liking Santorum are the exact reasons he's unelectible.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:16 pm |
    • Ronald Reganzo

      Rick can win and win big

      February 9, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
    • j_doe

      Exactly! If Republicans pick Santorum, they will get Obama.

      February 9, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
    • ODCLARK

      Thank you and a big "AMEN!"

      February 9, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
    • Simon

      Mr Reganzo, you don not know this country if you think Santorum can win big. Support for his kind of religious zealotry tops out at around 25% of the country...and that's being generous.

      February 9, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
  18. QuestionAuthority

    "Santorum isn’t afraid to challenge science, questioning the theory of evolution and dismissing global warming as 'a hoax.'" That's all I need to know...

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

      Simple-minded in the extreme!

      February 9, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
  19. Elaina

    I'm a Christian and I have issue with all ten reasons to love Santorum. People get so upset with me when I say I am neither Republican nor Democrat, that it depends on the issue. Why shouldn't it depend on the issue? Just bc I am a Christian, do not blanket me into adoring Santorum, hating women, hating equal rights, hating war, and hating science. I would never vote for Santorum. (which doesn't mean I love Obama, either, btw)

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

      I'm not Christian, but I'm much the same in my political viewpoints. I tremendously respect others like us who carefully evaluate each issue rather than buying the package deal.

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

      ha! I meant loving war. my bad.

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

      I will give you that Elaina, very good points . But if you had a choice between Obama or Santorum then who would you vote for? Personnaly I am not 100% Santorum... But I just can't vote for Romney or Da Newt... and certainly not Omgbama

      February 9, 2012 at 1:23 pm |
  20. yeap that's right

    There's a big change evolving in the US...and Santorum 1950's mindset isn't part of it.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:16 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.