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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. CC

    What a good list of 10 reasons NOT to vote for this maniac.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:34 pm |
  2. Republitard

    Newt, please have a moon colony for these guys, please!

    February 9, 2012 at 1:34 pm |
  3. SickOfLiesInNYC

    What about the rest of us who have different belief systems? Don't we count? Are all of us who are not Christian conservatives or Evangelicals deemed to be "infidels" and "non-believers?" Anyone who wants to promote their religious views over anyone else's are just like the Taliban and Islamic extremists who believe that "my God is better than your God"

    February 9, 2012 at 1:34 pm |
    • fofotavour

      Americans, lets put an end to this nonsense religion bs. We're in the 21st century for "GOD" sake, and still want to live by the people who insist to take us back to the dark ages. There is no god, period. Get over it.

      February 9, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
  4. maherfurtherover

    Rick Santorum is the American version of Sharia law. Enough with the zealots!!!

    February 9, 2012 at 1:34 pm |
    • fofotavour

      AMEN 🙂

      February 9, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
  5. amazed2

    The party of selfishness and greed says Obama hurts families? Give me a break........

    February 9, 2012 at 1:34 pm |
  6. Davis L

    Republican will have trouble if Santorum the nominee.

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

    you forgot to mention that he gives out candy to homeless children...

    February 9, 2012 at 1:34 pm |
  8. opinion0731

    I don't have an issue with Santorum's Character, I have a problem with his Resume. Senators are not administrators. They draft legislation, argue about it, and then vote. Aside from their own small staff Senators don't manage anything. Mitt Romney has actually built and organized administrations, in business, government and the international community. In short he knows what he is doing, and he has been successful at it. Legislation isn't going to get us out of this mess. Effective management and leadership I believe can. That being said, Santorum is my second choice, and I would love to see him as vice president.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:33 pm |
  9. Jena smith

    Why Teabaggers REALLY like him and why he won't win

    1. He's racist
    2. He's a bigot
    3. He's racist

    February 9, 2012 at 1:33 pm |
    • Rett

      Depends on what "tea party" you are talking about. The Oregon Tea Party doesn't like him at all. The Tennessee Tea Party loves him

      February 9, 2012 at 1:36 pm |
  10. Mortalc01l

    Hey, you gotta love Santorum, right? I mean with his Chrisofascist/Christaliban agenda to slam his particular brand of religious lunacy down our collective throats, he's not going to gather much support from rational people....

    Santorum is everything that's wrong with the Republican party today (BTW, I voted for Ronald Reagan)... He's a science denier of the most uneducated kind; he seriously wants to outlaw contraception; he believes the Earth is only 6,000 years old, despite EVERY SINGLE piece of proof to the contrary.... Yeah... Santorum's what any sane person will reject.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:33 pm |
  11. war profiteers

    war profiteers. don't get involved with them. they will suck the life out of this country. they're nuts.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:33 pm |
  12. Greg

    These are mostly reasons Santorum shouldn't be so much as let on the White House tour, much less get the seat at the desk in the Oval Office.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:33 pm |
  13. Dana

    For the sake of the economy, I hope Obama loses, although I do agree with some of the other things he has done. I could live with Newt, Romney or Paul over Obama in this election, but if Santorum is the nominee my vote is for Obama. As a non-christian, lesbian who is prochoice but anti-abortion (O don't like abortions, but don't think the government should have the authority to tell people they can't have one either), this list is just a bunch of reasons to vote for any of the remaining candidates EXCEPT Santorum, no matter how much I tend to be a small government/economic conservative.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:33 pm |
    • Rett

      Newt can't keep it in his pants and I am not sure Romney knows what he believes any more.

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

      Dana...I've always been curious about the dynamic of being pro-choice and anti-abortion. I understand the arguments supporting pro-choice. I'm more interested in your decision to be "anti-abortion." Why are you anti-abortion?

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

      So you'd rather go back to the Bush economy?

      February 9, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
  14. Kevin

    Some of these are TERRIBLE traits that you would hope not to find in any full-grown adult, let alone anyone being considered for the position of "Leader of the Free World."
    Some are simply irrelevant.

    #2 isn't "politically incorrect", it's "making intentional logical fallacies to appeal to emotion rather than evidence." Santorum's either too dumb to know that, or he's deliberately dishonest. Take your pick.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:32 pm |
  15. war profiteers

    watch Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers. santorum is in there.

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

      Will be watching thank you

      February 9, 2012 at 1:44 pm |
  16. Pee Tardy Patriot

    Hey, this guy ain't no fancy pants Marxist. He drives a big truck and shoots a gun.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:32 pm |
  17. Luke Emery

    This list was really more of a list why to laugh at Santorum.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
    • Bob N

      Only those without much of a conscience regarding matters of morality would oppose Santorum.

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

      Right because allowing your wife to have a late term abortion then campaigning against it is so moral

      February 9, 2012 at 1:45 pm |
  18. KnowsMore

    RICH SANTORUM WILL PURGE US OF SINNERS AND BAN STEM CELL RESEARCH, ABORTION, DRUGS, AND ALCOHOL!

    February 9, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
  19. MITT ROMNEY

    1. KOOL-AID!
    2. KOOL-AID!
    3. KOOL-AID!
    4. KOOL-AID!
    5. KOOL-AID!
    6. KOOL-AID!
    7. KOOL-AID!
    8. KOOL-AID!
    9. KOOL-AID!
    10. KOOL-AID!

    February 9, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
  20. Rett

    This guy sounds like a great Taliban.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:31 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.