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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. war profiteers

    now these nuts are recruiting in the movie theaters for the next war. KIDS: STAY AWAY FROM THESE NUTS. THEY WILL JUST USE YOU. THEY DON'T CARE ONE SPECK ABOUT YOU.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:30 pm |
  2. Priscilla Files

    You've just given me 10 reasons to "hate" Santorum. Raising 7 kids in ignorance is just one of them. We'll be paying for that for generations.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:30 pm |
  3. Mitsy

    I don't like Santorum or his wife. Read up on "her" background. I'm surprised the religious right has given her a pass for her sordid background. Oh, but she went ahead & spouted out a baby at like 48 and I guess that makes her OK since having kids at that age is OK & having kids with a lot of health problems because the Mom was too old to begin with is also OK. Not in my book.

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

      wow mitsy, little harsh there, aren't you? i'm an old democrat, disagree with mr. rick on many many issues, but certainly have no problem forgiving someone like rick's wife for some youthful transgressions. if you want to blog against where he stands on issues, and there is certainly a lot of fertile ground there, then have at it. but leave his wife and family out of it....

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

      Your hatred and bitterness make it impossible for me to take anything you say seriously

      February 9, 2012 at 2:57 pm |
  4. Ronald Reganzo

    Rickie, Rickie He's our man
    If he can't do it Newter can

    February 9, 2012 at 1:30 pm |
  5. Toby Dana

    These are the top 10 reason I hate this man

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

      Agreed. There's no such thing as 'compassionate conservatism'.........it's just plain old-faashioned prejudice, bigotry, and HATE.

      February 9, 2012 at 1:32 pm |
    • Ann Marie

      You hate a man for being a good family man and staying true to his religion?

      February 9, 2012 at 1:36 pm |
  6. Hwy 9

    So much for the separation between church and state. Warning lights should be flashing all over the nation at the very thought of electing this guy.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
    • Gandalf the White

      Santorum is terrifying. He's not running for the Republican party, he's running for the Catholic party. His speeches and previous actions show loud and clear that he is very willing to disregard the separation of Church and State, and push his own religious views on everyone and make them law.

      February 9, 2012 at 1:34 pm |
  7. Ron

    Regardless which candidate you like and why, here in 2012 there isn't a dimes difference between either side of the isle. Our Sitting President banks at JP Morgan. Mitt Romney banks at BOA. These are two of the most egregious offending banks in the country. On matters of a more personal note, there are to many offenders to name on both sides of the isle. Bush took us into a needless war. Romney says prepare for war with Iran. I could go on but there there isn't enough time to type that many details. On the rare occasion that a politician from either side of isle seems to have a bit of common sense, he/she get the one two punch of the media and their own party. This country has gone to hell in a hand basket and it will get worse before it gets better.

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

      Where do YOU bank?

      February 9, 2012 at 1:30 pm |
    • Intruth23

      Soory, Wells Fargo is the most egreious bank! Don't ever get a mortgage through those crooks.

      February 9, 2012 at 1:42 pm |
  8. mdbill

    i'm sure mr. rick is a very nice man and have nothing personally against him. he has no shot at winning the presidency because he appears to only attract anglo-saxons/i.e. whites who totally buy into his personal belief system. seeing the enthusiasm for him from my friends of this persuasion is not that different than many muslim's enthusiasm for some of their mullahs.... if you look closely at what he wants to legislate there are a lot of similarities to sharia law. helps me understand some of the fanaticism seen in the middle east....

    February 9, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
  9. j

    These are 10 reasons why Santorum has no chance against Obama. If Republicans have any brains, they'll make sure Romney wins the nomination because he's the *only* one with a chance to win the general election. An evangelical will *never* win the US presidency.

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

    Science being at odds with Christian views? You mean like the existence of gravity? Or how about the age of the earth? The surface tension of water? Frankly speaking, I'm really tired of these politicians revving up the ignorant with their simple minded views and listening to them say it's what the American people want. The Catholic religion and the Catholic church is guilty of many crimes against humanity, so how can you separate that from your dogma? Practice your religion in your church and in your home and with other like minded people. Don't force your primitive beliefs on me.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
    • Not All Docs Play Golf

      Well said, After 8 years of Catholic gradeschool, 4 years of Catholic highschool then 4 years of Catholic college, as a science major then physican with a more mature intellect, I came to rejecty all of the Catholic crap I was taught. It is bronze age primitive middle eastern mythology.

      February 9, 2012 at 1:35 pm |
  11. MaryThomas

    Are you kidding me? The guy that wants to prevent women the right to prevent pregnancy is the one you're in love with? As an atheist, I am appalled & dismayed that a man so backwards & so full of religious zeal would be making decisions that impact me & mine. President fecal matter will guarantee I find another country to live in. Because I know my rights would be violated & someone's Skydaddy beliefs would be forced down my throat. CNN, you disgust me. That's why I don't watch your channel anymore.

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

      I agree Mary, but which country would that be for us to move to.

      February 9, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
    • tessie

      Mary, I feel sad for you. Your closed mind is your biggest enemy. Please learn there are differences in people. Instead of acting bitter and hateful, why don't you try and embrace the differences in humans? Why is it so hard for liberals to accept people are different?

      February 9, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
    • Jeff Williams

      """Why is it so hard for liberals to accept people are different?"""

      Oh, you mean, like gay people?

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

      Yo tessie – liberals are NOT the ones who have trouble accepting the differences of others! Perhaps you should pray on the matter a while for enlightenment. Liberals are also not the ones demanding that everyone be forced to live according to their own personal moral beliefs. Most of us have no personal issue with Christianity or Christians; we are just sick and tired of hard-line Christians trying to take over this country and drive it back to the dark ages. Women have had rights for too long now to be consigned back to the kitchen barefoot and pregnant! And quite frankly, most men appreciate having a partner who can add to the family finances instead of draining them.

      February 9, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
    • MaryThomas

      Tessie, feel bad for me all you want. I'll be looking to escape with the rest of the intelligent members of our country to somewhere mr lube & fecal matter is not the Pope or President. My Sundays are my own just like any other day of the week. Feel sorry for those of us that are free from religion. We'll still pity you =)

      February 9, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
    • tessie

      Mary, don't let the door hit you on your way out! We certainly don't want people like you around. Good luck!

      February 9, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
    • tessie

      Sorry, RSTLNE, as a registtered democrat, I am appalled by the non accepting premises that most liberals live by. They seem to preach acceptance of all, yet when you challenge them, it is only acceptance of what they believe that is acceptable to them. I am ashamed that I was once a liberal all the way. Now I am fiscally conservative and socially liberal, something far left liberals just can't seem to understand or grasp the idea

      February 9, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
    • tessie

      To Jeff Williams: Gay people, non gay people, deaf people, people who believe in God....yes...liberals have a hard time accepting anyone different than them. It is a shame

      February 9, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
    • MaryThomas

      Tessie, you are more than welcome to stay here and suffer the consequences. My 'closed mind' is not the problem. My open eyes are for people like you.

      February 9, 2012 at 3:11 pm |
    • tessie

      Mary, Mary, Mary, you certainly are quite contrary! I wish you luck in wherever you end up! I think you would fit in very well on an island of your own. I guess you are used to that!

      February 9, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
  12. Not All Docs Play Golf

    Bring back those good old American values from 1600's Salem, Mass. Burn heretics and witches at the stake in the public square! Down with science! Down with secular books....let's burn them...!Vote Rick Santorum !

    February 9, 2012 at 1:28 pm |
  13. Donald

    I'm a conservative Catholic and I don't support Santorum. However, I find the anti-religion rants to be extremely offensive. There are good reasons to oppose him, but your atheism should not be one of those reasons. I come from the Pacific Northwest, but now I live in Chicago. The country is truly divided along religious lines, and I think a lot of the problem stems from these different groups not being able to accept that other groups might have other views, and that it's okay, even if we don't agree with those views. I don't go around bashing atheists, even though I vehemently disagree with them. Do me a favor, and extend me the same respect.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:28 pm |
    • Not All Docs Play Golf

      That's all fine as long as you don't try to turn your religious beliefs into legsilation.

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

      I find it amazing that some people, such as you, claim that certain statements regarding religion can "offend" you. We all know it's much easier for you to take a defensive posture about your religious beliefs, because you should. Every one of those beliefs are nothing more than wild guesses, and should be quite embarrassing. The strong feelings you experience regarding religion are not "anger at being offended". It's embarrassment at being outed in believing ridiculous religious claims. You can't defend your religious convictions because they are indefensible, so apparently it's easier to simply claim that you're offended.

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

      My atheism is the exact reason I reject Santorum. If he wants to be part of the morality police, join the Catholic church. Oh, wait. He can't because he's married, not a virgin, & has kids. Because in your primitive religion, priests & nuns have to marry Jesus. How is this any different than the way the Islamic countries treat women? NO access to birth control, no driver's licenses, no voting. What's next, Ricky? Burkas? The ridiculousness of your argument baffles me. Not to mention the fact that what I do with my Sundays are my business, what happens in my uterus is none of your business. The Republican party has a conflicted mission statement. The preborn are to be protected at all costs, even if that cost is the life of the mother. But once you're born, no food stamps, no health care, no adequate housing, & definitely no free & fair public education. Which totally defeats the purpose of why you are born. Newt wants you to clean toilets, Mitt wants you to be underpaid by 1 of the companies he owns, & Ricky wants you to be a docile Catholic who doesn't question the church or him. No thank you!

      February 9, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
    • tessie

      NIcely said, Donald. I am a registered democrat, but really an independent. I am appalled at the anger people show towards people who have a belief system, a belief in a God, or a power higher than them. I feel sorry for the closed minds that seemed to have invaded our nation. I, too, am not a supporter of Santorum, but I respect his right to have his views. I think I have to look more into him – maybe my mind will be changed to support him. But...being a democrat in PA, I can not vote in the Republican primary, only the democratic.

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

      The problem is that atheists are not trying to push their beliefs into legislation that everyone is forced to obey. I personally find it highly objectionable that anyone is questioning the validity of science. Have we really regressed that far as a nation? It is one thing to question the validity of a particular theory (string anyone?) or a particular study; it is entirely different to declare that 95% of all the scientists in the world are engaged in an outright hoax! Really??? So you want the rest of us to just ignore the issue of global warming because the Christians say it's a lie? Who will the Christians blame when the Earth is so polluted that their grandchildren – or possibly even their children – have to pay exorbitant prices for safe food and wear gas masks when they go outside?

      February 9, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      Our atheism is not being used as a reason to oppose him.
      What we oppose him on is his desire to force his ideas, based on his religion, on others, or to make presidential decisions based on biblical teachings.

      February 9, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
    • tessie

      RSTLNE, How much money do you make with the fallacy of global warming, that we really control the weather? How much are you gettting paid to spew this garbage? The world runs on cycles....we do not control the climate. Shame on YOU for making money by trying to scare people!

      February 9, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
  14. Doug

    The author writes, "Piety gets respect with religious voters, regardless of affiliation," and Richard Land, public policy chief for the Southern Baptist Convention makes a Catholic an "honorary evangelical." Ask the Southern Baptist Convention if Mormon piety and values would allow a Mormon to be an "honorary evangelical." The answer would be a resounding "No!" Stating that piety gets respect, and evangelicals respect people of different religious beliefs is hypocritical given how evangelicals treat their Mormon neighbors.

    but Mormon piety of attending church and actively worshiping in their congregations is frowned upon.

    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.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:26 pm |
  15. Ghosty Kips

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

    Vote Rick Santorum if you love scientific ignorance.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:26 pm |
    • Rett

      EXACTLY! It amazes me that there are people in this country that don't believe in science. We should take their cell phones, their TVs, their medicine and their cars!

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

      It needs more faith to believe in evolution than believing in God as evolutions foundations are shaky.

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

      RETT ard – your taking it far beyond the context it was meant for.

      February 9, 2012 at 1:35 pm |
    • Jeff Williams

      """It needs more faith to believe in evolution than believing in God as evolutions foundations are shaky."""

      Really, this statement only tells everyone that you have no training or education or interest in science and have no idea of the evidence that supports evolution.

      Yet you still have a strong opinion. Why should anyone listen to you?

      February 9, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
  16. Pee Tardy Patriot

    He wears stars and stripes boxer shorts, so he's O.K. by me.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:26 pm |
  17. Rett

    I am no Obama fan. But the GOP field is laughable.

    Romney = say anything to be elected.
    Newt = Say anything for a piece of strange
    Santorium = George W. Bush all over again (deficits and wars)

    February 9, 2012 at 1:26 pm |
  18. Brian

    "seperation of church and state" sounded like such a good idea, didnt it?

    February 9, 2012 at 1:26 pm |
    • Jason

      It did. Such a shame that Obama decided to get involved with telling churches what to do.

      But seriously, I also hate Santorum.

      February 9, 2012 at 1:35 pm |
  19. Chris

    He's not a fiscal conservative, he doesn't have any plans to bring down our deficit. His idea of balancing our budget is right on par with Obama, Romney and Newt. The only part of him that is conservative is the idea on traditional marriage, and denying gays and lesbians the right to be married. He doesn't even understand the basic concepts of foreign policy. The Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu came before OUR congress and said that "Israel can take care of itself" and that they dont need American troops there. Yet he continues to support FORCING our troops into a supposed allied country that has publicly said they don't want or need us. The problem with Rick Santorum is that his views are very short sighted and lack a deeper understanding of economic policy, monetary policy, foreign policy and even involves his personal religion in politics.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:26 pm |
  20. Bill

    Recovering Republican Said.....

    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.
    -------
    And Obama was not elected just because he was Black? No record. No experience. No Idea... !!!!!!
    Sometimes you people just make me nuts. You know that if this guy gets 4 more years we are all in trouble.
    Geezus... he is out touting all the stuff that should have been done in Year one! What makes you think that any of these second term promises are going to come true? Its nuts!
    From a Independent Voter in Ohio.... I sent Rick money this morning.

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

      Save your money there, Billy Bob!

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

      This independent respectfully disagrees that if he gets 4 more years we are all in trouble. The REAL power is in Congress. The President can influence and propose legislation, but he doesn't draft it. The bills end up on his desk and he either signs them or vetoes them. Why aren't you frustrated with Congress? His ideas and plans were clearly laid out in speeches leading up to the election, but they have been held up in the Congressional quagmire.

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

      I think you'r forgetting about the 8 years that got us into this mess. Did you really expect Obama to clean up those turds in 4 years of the Republican stated goal of standing in the way of everything this administration trys to do, without even examining the merits? Admit it, you guys just can't stand that your war hero was defeated by a Black Liberal. In any event, we finally found out what the Republicans love more than Senate page boys... their money.

      February 9, 2012 at 1:35 pm |
    • EastCoastMike

      A fool and his money are soon parted....you're a perfect example.

      February 9, 2012 at 1:36 pm |
    • abe

      Yeh and I sent money to George Wallace in 1968 ...where's he now !? With the lord I suppose !!!

      February 9, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
    • nerve9

      Look at the latest jobs report smart guy. You'll see that the economy has gained jobs for FIVE STRAIGHT MONTHS! Did you think it was going to take a week to clean up the mess Bush left us with? It's a miracle it's been done this quickly. Obama's policies are working! But you go ahead and waste your money on a guy who doesn't believe in science.

      February 9, 2012 at 2:03 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.