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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. demosthenes

    Santorum is uninspiring as a leader and speaker, tends to believe and distribute inaccurate information, could not gain the critical independent vote in November, and lost re-election by about 16 points. He's a sure loser in November.

    Does it occur to anyone that accusing a Mormon of being liberal about abortion and gay marriage is laughable?

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

      As a Latter Day Saint it appears to me that you make broad and basless accustations about a religion that you must not be very familiar with.

      February 9, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
    • demosthenes

      I'm LDS.

      February 9, 2012 at 1:28 pm |
    • angryersmell

      @Larry – I don't know. Those look an awful lot like facts to me. I know, I know. Facts have no place in a religious discussion, but I have faith that if presented with enough, you'll eventually see reason.

      February 9, 2012 at 1:36 pm |
  2. marko

    Very nice writeup! Nothing saying he should be president, just stating his record. And yet, looking at all the comments, WOW, haters gonna hate! Showing your real teeth in typical fashion.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
  3. Joshua Ludd

    So, basically it boils down to two things... he hasn't had multiple wives like gingrich and he wants to force his religious morals on everyone in the country who disagrees with those morals... because, of course if you don't disagree with them then you are already living by them, right? No.. far from it.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
  4. RogerFrancis

    I am waiting for him to be President. We can relaunch the Crusades; we can expand the military, we can bomb Iran; we can start another war while we reduce capital gains tax to zero; reduce income tax rates for the rich; remove inheritance taxes; and gut medicare.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
  5. Lowe

    Ten reasons why a Theocracy in America is possible.
    This man and his ilk would have no problem establishing a christian theocracy here.
    No, no thank you. I will be doing all I can to stop this man.
    Really, Republicans, are these clowns the best you have? The President does not represent the conservative, not the righ- but the PEOPLE. And all I hear is how they are going to win for "their" people.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:24 pm |
    • Joshua Ludd

      Remember the good old days of the GOP when a theocratic nut like Santorum would be considered a fringe figure, not a mainstream candidate for president?

      February 9, 2012 at 1:30 pm |
  6. us1776

    20% of Republicans leaning to Obama!

    SRC: Google: WND leaning

    .

    February 9, 2012 at 1:24 pm |
    • Frustrated Independent Voter !

      Even republicans know they have a bad crop this election ! Obama is a much better option this election !

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

    "10.Santorum isn’t afraid to challenge science, questioning the theory of evolution and dismissing global warming as “a hoax.”"

    You can't pray the gay away, and it won't work for the 50 feet of water NYC will be under in 25 years either.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:24 pm |
    • Larry

      Were you born lacking intelligence or was it something that you had to work for?

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

      @Larry – I was born knowing that an unsubstantiated insult doesn't prove me wrong, and makes you sound like a child. Must have been divinely inspired wisdom.

      February 9, 2012 at 1:32 pm |
    • Jeff Williams

      """Must have been divinely inspired wisdom."""

      Very nice, touche.

      February 9, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
  8. Frustrated Independent Voter !

    I have nothing against religion but it has it's place ! It has no place in government ! We had a religious zealot in Bush Jr. and look how bad that turned out ! He got us bogged down in a quagmire in Iraq that cost us thousand's of lives and trillion's of dollar's ! It was all based on him thinking he was taking part in a crusade ! Santorum would be just as dangerous if not more ! No way are we going through that again ! I'm going with Obama because he is the only logical choice this election ! If he feel's we need to use military action it's with a clear purpose and it is executed very well and efficiently !

    February 9, 2012 at 1:24 pm |
    • mm

      Yes!

      February 9, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
    • demosthenes

      An apostrophe is NEVER used to make a word plural.

      February 9, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
    • Thomas

      Obama has admitted his economic policy is guided by his own religious beliefs. How is he any different?

      http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/02/obama-national-prayer-breakfast-speech_n_1249631.html

      February 9, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
    • Larry

      It's scary to think that people with your mindset are actually allowed, and often times encouraged, to vote. People such as yourself make me question my belief in pro-life.

      February 9, 2012 at 1:30 pm |
    • Frustrated Independent Voter !

      Thomas and Larry you can't argue with the fact's of my comment , all you can do is criticize my opinion because it is not your own biased one ! Obama has proven himself to trustworthy with using military force ! I trust his judgement that is why he will be getting my vote this election !

      February 9, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
  9. goddess

    Santorum is an idiot who will be the death of the republican party if he's the nominee.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:23 pm |
    • Paul

      you are sooooo RIGHT on the right..... which is why I'm rooting for Santorium. Bye bye

      February 9, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
  10. CarrotCakeMan

    Google "santorum" 10 times, that will reveal more about him than these nonsense points.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:23 pm |
  11. SheilaKA

    Very strange that a "devout Catholic" would be questioning the theory of evolution so much...the Catholic Church has no quarrel with the theory...God willed us into existence and the "how" is up for grabs.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:23 pm |
    • angryersmell

      The infinite, complex and wonderous story of evolutionary history seems a lot more "godly" than a bearded sky giant on a throne snapping his fingers 5000 years ago and having everything appear. Even the Pope accepts that. I wonder why ol' Rick doesn't?

      “Evangelicals have made him an honorary evangelical,”

      Ohhhh, there it is.

      February 9, 2012 at 1:28 pm |
  12. Switters

    Kiki-

    I was just wondering – what about women who use IUDs

    (IUDs working by not allowing the fertilized egg / zygote to attach to the uterine wall)

    February 9, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
  13. Josh G

    This type of man is a monster that sets our civilization back 100 years. Thankfully, he's comically unelectable on the national level. Let Missouri and Iowa and the rest of the cornbread states have him.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
    • Mike

      AMEN

      February 9, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
  14. Rett

    Santorium sounds like Bush. Compassionate conservative is nothing more than a BIG SPENDER. Bible thumper = anti-science, anti-intellectuals, anti-personal freedoms.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
  15. livingston

    You can also list #11. If you run him as a candidate it will ensure a win for President Obama! Speaking as a resident of Pennsylvania, we had him as an 'offical' once. Never again. When he tried to run again he was soundly kicked to the curb! If his own state, that experienced him doesn't want him, that should tell you something!

    February 9, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
  16. Shalla

    I suppose if this is all you know about Santorum, he sounds great. Unfortunately, the man is a hypocrite who made the Penn Hills school district taxpayers pay over $70k to home school his kids through an online charter school after he was out of office and his entire family was living in another state. That's right, don't make your rich new neighborhood pay for your kids' education! Make the middle class municipality shell it out because you keep pretending you live there.

    And for a man who is so anti-abortion, he sure does a nice two-step justifying choosing early induced labor at a point when the baby wouldn't live to save his wife's life. Because that wasn't abortion, it was induced labor. Seriously. Apparently Rick's Rules don't apply to Rick or his family.

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

      Are you kidding me?!? you are going arrogantly assume you know why this man and his wife induced the labor of that child.

      And while some evangelicals may be anti-science, the catholics are always open to science in considering the beginning of the universe and how and why we are on this planet. A catholic priest developed the idea of the scientific method.

      February 9, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
  17. anticomm

    what is better, Santorum who will bring us back to cave or Obama, who will bring us to Communism?

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

      communism please

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

      Communism......but really that term is used too easily.....especially if you ever really understood what living in a communist state is really like. Even if Obama got everything he wanted we would still be nowhere near communism....so take it easy please.

      February 9, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
  18. Steve B.

    I don't want a president that doesn't believe in science. We're already getting our rears kicked by other countries because our educational system is failing. I don't want a president that couldn't pass 5th grade science class.

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

      Agreed!

      February 9, 2012 at 1:30 pm |
  19. Joe G

    Don't believe the hype. He made the little baby Jesus cry.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:20 pm |
  20. clarke

    For a man who deeply believes in his faith, he sure can pass judgement on another human being. Well Rock from where I stand, Obama lives by the Bill of Rights and the consituation of the United States because that is what Presidents do for the people. They should not govern based on their faith. We are not all of the same faith. I don't feel you should speak of our ( and your) President with such hate in your heart, good men do not do that.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:20 pm |
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About this blog

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.