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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. US Citizen

    let's cut to the quick folks, it's because Romney is Mormon. Christians, particularly Catholics and bible beaters are bigoted against the non-christian religions and will never support Romney because he is a Mormon, even though he is also a christian.
    Sanitorium is an unstable zealot willing to use his family, specifically dead child, as a ticket to anywhere. He is a K Street operator only for the money.
    I want to know when we can get religion out of politics. Even the Dems are phonies using the pulpit for a soap box any chance they can with blacks and old and maybe the hispanics but they mat be too smart, or too irrelevant in their eyes.
    Sanitorium is guaranteed to lead this country into a major war. If anyone does want to base their vote on religion, don't vote for this fool.

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

      Religion will always be in politics when you have such a lunatic fringe of evangelicals like we do in this country. They spew hatred and disgust at anyone who is not like them.

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

      This is an interesting and important point. The pulpit in our sanctuaries and chapels should not be welcome to political rhetoric. It should be off limits to both sides of the debates - liberal and conserative. It mixes the two worlds and should cause one to be uncomfortable. One attends mass or chapel to separate oneself from the world, to find peace and commune with God. Having political discourse enter into the sanctuary does not assist in that process and should be discouraged in all congregations.

      February 9, 2012 at 1:52 pm |
  2. Sanctimonious

    There are an infinite number of reasons to love Rick Santorum. If your a bigoted, evangelical christian, wealthy, self-centered, white male!!!

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

      And your not, I take it.

      February 9, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
  3. Will

    Religious fundamentalism is the enemy of freedom, rights and equality, and thus is unAmerican, as is anyone dumb enough to vote for this cross licking clown.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
  4. Scott

    Really? We want someone who questions science? We need someone who see's the truth and not the BS that the church has pushed upon us all!! We are facing some of the hugest deficits as a country and need to face the music!

    February 9, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
  5. ProudAmerican

    Hail to the hero of the American Evangelical Taliban. He apparently never leaned about separation of church and state while he and his wacky wife were homeschooling their children.

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

      This is 2012 time to stop all this religion crap. I am not an atheist for not buying it just normal. The new leaders of the country have to put the fairy tail religions to rest. Grow up America it is all made up.

      February 9, 2012 at 1:44 pm |
  6. DeeNYC

    yep, he's a nut. If you don't believe in science you're mentall ill

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

      I don't believe the article said anything about not believing in science. He is just questioning some conclusions. And that is the basis of science itself - to question, to postulate, to seek the answer, and to draw conclusions. Others will look at that and question assumptions made, tests performed, and the cycle continues. If one accepts all conclusions that science has put forth without question, then I believe that demonstrates the weaker mind.

      February 9, 2012 at 1:44 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      The thing is smc is that science is questioned and explored by other scientists or those with scientific knowledge. Santorum does not have a scientific background and so his commenting on whether the science if valid or not carries the same weight as my opinion on a legal matter in his law arena.

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

      I am unsure of his scientific background. However, I disagree that scientists should have a monopoly on raising questions about scientific conclusions. Regardless of background one should feel free question scientific conclusions. It is correct that not all will be able to conduct the tests or have the background to completely understand the science - yet this cannot dictate whether one can question the conclusions. It would be naive to simply accept without question.

      February 9, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
  7. Pan3

    compassionate conservatism ?!?! That's an oxymoron.
    OBAMA 2012! FOUR MORE YEARS, YES WE CAN!

    February 9, 2012 at 1:37 pm |
  8. TgR

    The simple fact that nobody can defeat Obama in the next election after what he has done, actually, not done, is scary!

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

      What exactly can a president do without the cooperation of Congress? It's not a dictatorship...yet.

      February 9, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
  9. Not All Docs Play Golf

    Along with his intent to change America into a theocracy, I also don't like him because he is the intellectual equivalent of a male Sarah Palin.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:37 pm |
  10. KTinCA

    Recognize this story for what it is. Liberals don't want to run against Romney and are doing everything in their powers to make sure he is not the GOP nominee. They think that Santorum will be easy to beat, being so conservative, so this "campaign" in favor of Santorum is now in flight. Make no mistake – WH manipulation is blatantly obvious here. The liberal media are all BO lapdogs.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:37 pm |
    • Txdeist1

      Putting Rick Santorum's success in the last few primary races off as a democratic plot is all good and well, however you seem to simply be ignoring that it's your party that chooses to cozy up to the crazy religious nuts that are supporting the likes of Santorum. If the republican party wants intelligent qualified candidates, then you need to quit pandering to your lowest elements.

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

      So those 3 states that Rick won the other day were actually democratic plants by Obama voting, and not republicans, in an attempt to get Rick the nod? oh the dastardly fiend!

      February 9, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
  11. yeahright

    I love all these reasons to surrender our country to the American Taliban too! Is there a superpac that is funded by the Mujadeen now? Money well spent..

    February 9, 2012 at 1:36 pm |
  12. kc

    This is a list to why people should be scared of him being POTUS. Guy doesn't believe in science. WOW!!!!

    February 9, 2012 at 1:36 pm |
  13. guy

    religious people love to hate. they love to hate people from other religions. they love to hate people who don't follow a religion. santorum is a chickenhawk who would waste our nation's treasure and blood, while sitting back and judging everyone. screw him.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:36 pm |
  14. Larry

    I look at it this way, if the Republicans nominate an ultra-right wing nutjob to run against Obama let them. If prayer works, then the Democrats must be praying for Santorum's nomination.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:36 pm |
  15. MITT ROMNEY

    1. WHERE'S THE BIRTH CERTIFICATE?
    2. WHERE'S THE BIRTH CERTIFICATE?
    3. WHERE'S THE BIRTH CERTIFICATE?
    4. WHERE'S THE BIRTH CERTIFICATE?
    5. WHERE'S THE BIRTH CERTIFICATE?
    6. WHERE'S THE BIRTH CERTIFICATE?
    7. WHERE'S THE BIRTH CERTIFICATE?
    8. WHERE'S THE BIRTH CERTIFICATE?
    9. WHERE'S THE BIRTH CERTIFICATE?
    10. WHERE'S THE BIRTH CERTIFICATE?

    February 9, 2012 at 1:36 pm |
    • JUSTICE FOR THE DEATH OF ANASTACIO HERNANDEZ AT THE HANDS OF THE BORDER PATROL

      Oye hermano Romney. Gracias mi hermano El Romney Mexican American Mormon. Romney los mexicanos no votaremos por ti por olvidarte donde nacio tu padre, pero te queremos porque tambien eres mexicano aunque no quieras, cabron.

      February 9, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
  16. Tara H

    All very good reasons why this man should not be allowed within 10 *miles* of the Oval Office....

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

      like

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

    11. He has no chance of beating Obama.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:36 pm |
  18. Thatguy371

    Ten more reasons to loathe this chump. And he's a repub... you know... the party that's supposedly for LESS govt. Maybe that's just their catch phrase?

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

    Thank you for giving me 10 reasons for hating him even more.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:35 pm |
  20. Mike Scott

    Dan, your as much of a right-wing nut as Rick Santorum is. You both are idiots.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:35 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.