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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. Rob

    If the Republicans truly believe that the United States favors Right Wing politics – they should run Santorum against Obama and let the voters decide in an all out national election.

    If they run Romney then we will know full well that Republicans know that they simply cannot win with an all out Conservative on the ticket – even Bush was much more to the center than most real Republicans liked and Reagan – Holy Smokes – that lefty said that bosses should pay higher taxes than their secretaries and actually raised taxes multiple times!!!

    February 8, 2012 at 8:06 pm |
  2. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things –

    February 8, 2012 at 8:04 pm |
    • mickey1313

      yes it does change things, it makes slaves out of those who listen any buy into it. There is no evidance of faith EVER n the history of the world helping anyone, except those leading the church.

      February 8, 2012 at 8:14 pm |
    • rlowens1

      <-– Laughing at you and any other adults with imaginary friends.

      February 8, 2012 at 8:17 pm |
    • Republitard

      If prayers changed things, what have it changed? By praying, were you able to change anything? Solving our problems? Cure diseases, cancer maybe? bigotry? stupidity? poverty? famine? Did any of those things changed? if nothjng have changed for the better in the world, guess you guys are not praying hard enuff, maybe you guys should have a colony on the moon, might be closer to god who moved out of the clouds.

      February 9, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
  3. Baby Mama

    Anyone seen my babys mama? she done took the welfare checks and bounced!!

    February 8, 2012 at 8:04 pm |
  4. Sir Saitotis

    Mitt went all bonkers after FL so he's lost me with his spoilt rich stunts. Newt is just crazy thinking he'll be Protus. Ron is the only sincere person but needs to be upgraded to the 21st century global polity. I cant put my finger on it but their something about Santorum that just rubs my spirit very wrong way. Dont get me wrong, im a born again christian and i agree with everything he stands for, he just comes of as a pompous freedom fighter.
    Gop could have done way better than this options. But Obama must GO.

    February 8, 2012 at 8:02 pm |
    • 00OOooooOO00

      so must your spelling and English

      February 8, 2012 at 9:24 pm |
  5. anonymous

    theocrats love one another - until suddenly they realize that their theological views aren't exactly alike and then they start killing one another - you know like the Protestants and Catholics once did - like the Shias and Sunnis are doing today....
    God save us from the righteous-reich wingers.... so to speak...

    America is NOT a theocracy, at least not yet....

    February 8, 2012 at 8:01 pm |
  6. rlowens1

    Let's refrain from electing unrecovering brainwashing victims to the office of the Presidency, shall we?

    February 8, 2012 at 7:57 pm |
    • Baby Mama

      Have u seen my babies mama? she took them welfare checks and dipped out on me bro.

      February 8, 2012 at 8:05 pm |
    • Bee

      Good goal - no unrecovered, brainwashed Presidents! That would be a first! Nixon, Reagan and W were certainly brainwashed and decidedly unrecovered!

      February 8, 2012 at 11:56 pm |
  7. Sir Kensington Biltworth

    HeIlo, Sir Kensington Biltworth here, I am quite intrigued by this Santorum man from the States. He poses some interesting questions but then also seems so far apart. Here in Biltshire (named after my ancestors) we have very responsible candidates, ever since we became independent in 2001 we enacted a term limit law. No corruption or malignment anywhere. Biltshire's way better than you wackos in the States.

    February 8, 2012 at 7:57 pm |
    • Flinders the butler

      All term limits does, is make sure there is always a new crop of rookies. Good luck with that. Cheerio.

      February 8, 2012 at 9:26 pm |
  8. watcher in the woods

    and he "cares" about ALL the people, rich and poor, etc. Really? Bet there are bunches and bunches of Americans who don't fit his "Christian" ideal of what deserves "his" care. Christianity in this country (and everywhere) is sadly too often used to control, force, discount and deny those who have not been "saved." And the self-righteous continue to sing themselves to sleep, gratified they'll happily skip through heaven with Jesus, away from the mass of humanity. I believe Santorum and his evangelical backers really DO care about THOSE people. The rest, who won't go to heaven anyhow, don't matter.

    February 8, 2012 at 7:52 pm |
  9. Geoffrey Hamilton

    Keep your religion out of my government.

    Signed,
    A catholic hell bent on not voting for Santorum

    February 8, 2012 at 7:46 pm |
    • Bee

      Dear hellbent Catholic: Thank you, sir, for the first voice of wisdom from your side of the aisle! Santorum should be as scary to Catholics as he is to the rest of us. His version of Catholicism is pure distortion. His fear of science is actually anti-Catholic. See the work of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a priest and scientist who represents the best in Catholic thought.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:00 am |
  10. Sir Kensington Biltworth

    Hello, Sir Kensington Biltworth here, I am quite intrigued by this Santorum man from the States. He poses some interesting questions but then also seems so far apart. Here in Biltshire (named after my ancestors) we have very responsible candidates, ever since we became independent in 2001 we enacted a term limit law. No corruption or malignment anywhere. Biltshire's way better than you wackos in the States.

    February 8, 2012 at 7:44 pm |
  11. bill.x

    as a catholic, i like to keep the church out of my bedrom and politics. while i find gingrich laughable with his emphazsis on religion, it does not wear well on him and he should stop, i view santorum as dangerous, almost manic. and romney, who seems to be chasing those two down that slippery slope of a hole, just as well – as his politics stink anyway.

    February 8, 2012 at 7:40 pm |
    • Powt

      "i like to keep the church out of my bedro(o)m..."

      Uhh, yo, that means you're not a Catholic, dude.

      February 8, 2012 at 7:49 pm |
    • Bee

      Reply to Powt: Rules made by men (Popes) are not the same as rules made by God. It is possible to be a Catholic and dissent from rules made by mere men. There is nothing in the Bible about birth control.

      February 9, 2012 at 9:50 am |
  12. Ronny Paul

    So much misinformation in the comments section....as usual. PIease do your research people and don't listen to morons on CNN's comments board.

    You will get dumber for reading them. I followed them for a couple of weeks and think I've lost about 10 IQ points.

    February 8, 2012 at 7:38 pm |
    • hans

      Yeah. That is why you are still here.;)

      February 8, 2012 at 8:16 pm |
    • Bee

      If you see "misinformation," why not try to correct it? Many posters appear to be uneducated and in need of guidance.

      February 9, 2012 at 9:52 am |
  13. Newt 2012

    Go Newt!!!! He's the man, most honest and pious candidate out there!!!!!

    February 8, 2012 at 7:36 pm |
    • Ronny Paul

      Ron Paul.! He'll send us back to the wild wild west and I cant wait!!!!

      February 8, 2012 at 7:37 pm |
    • bill.x

      newt pious, honest?! – only when he is holding it in his hand.

      February 8, 2012 at 7:43 pm |
    • Powt

      Newt was history after Florida and his campaign bucket doesn't have enough dough left to save him. Good riddance.

      February 8, 2012 at 7:43 pm |
    • Bee

      God help us if Newt is the most pious and honest candidate! That's like saying Satan is the most pious and honest angel!

      February 9, 2012 at 12:03 am |
  14. ThinkAgain

    1. He hates women.
    2. He hates women.
    3. He hates gays.
    4. He hates minorities.
    5. He hates freedom of religion.
    6. He hates diversity.
    7. He hates women.
    8. He hates the Middle Class.
    9. He hates science.
    10. He hates corporate responsibility.
    8. He hates women.

    February 8, 2012 at 7:36 pm |
    • Flinders the butler

      Can't wait till they dig up the video of him saying "politics is a sport"... he'll be history.

      February 8, 2012 at 9:30 pm |
    • wesstward

      Spot on!

      February 8, 2012 at 10:57 pm |
    • Andrew

      Sounds like you hate men, and hard work, and especially white men.

      February 9, 2012 at 12:45 pm |
  15. Bee

    There is no doubt that Rick loves his family and his idea of what a Christian worldview entails. He just does not understand that science and the Christian world view can be compatible with not much effort. The Bible was never meant to be taken literally. The fossil record is there for all to see, and it goes back over a billion years. Yes, there are controversies in science just as there are in religion. That does not mean we should throw out science in favor of religion (myth). Rick has a very backward and narrow world view. He would take the country backwards. That's not what we need.

    February 8, 2012 at 7:35 pm |
  16. Miss Capri

    This whole "you must believe in science or in creation, not both" is stupid. Just because I believe in creation and not the ape man stuff, or human-caused climate change and all that crud doesn't mean I don't believe in science. Global warming – excuse me – climate change, is not science. It's a green religion. Anti-abortionists are just as bad, no different from animal rights zealots. So there's no one running for US president that I like, no one. All dismiss one hoax only to believe in another. Including Romney, he believes in global warming. News is an anti-abortionist *bzzt* no dog. Santorum, animal welfare extremist pro-banning of some animals as pets. *bzzzt* no good. Glad Perry dropped out, he was another anti-abortionist and was accused of spreading right-wing chain letters. Both parties need to lose a load of things from their platforms before they'll be any good. And I'm sick of all this pro-gay stuff. So somebody's gay, whatever, TMI, it doesn't mean I have to like it or even care. Oh, and just because one dislikes Harry Potter doesn't mean they automatically like Twilight either. Just tired of all the little boxes everybody insists on shoving themselves and others into.

    February 8, 2012 at 7:35 pm |
  17. ryan

    Hi

    February 8, 2012 at 7:33 pm |
  18. Miss Capri

    I do not support Santorum, he's against exotic pet ownership and os pro-banning of some large breed dogs. I am a Christian and I dispise any and all chain emails, including especially phony religious exploitive, right-leaning, friendship spam, sick kid hoaxes, viral jokes etc. It's time Christians stopped with the chain letters. I'm so sick of seeing this same trend online, it's always right-wing or religious chain letters being vented about and debunked, and mostly by non-Christians. http://chainsmashers.mixxt.com

    February 8, 2012 at 7:21 pm |
  19. studdmuffins

    I'm quite faithful but would not vote for Rick. Mitt is moderate by comparison.

    February 8, 2012 at 7:11 pm |
    • studdmuffins' studly gay lover

      I was only unfaithful to you a few times. Well, maybe a few dozen. But it's nice to know that you still want me between your cheeks.

      February 8, 2012 at 7:22 pm |
  20. Christian Fresh Daily Political Times

    A spokesperson today said candidate Rick Santorum, having recently won over the Christian religious extreme, is now converting his dead child to Islam through home schooling using the Koran.

    Santorum said "With a Muslim in the family, I could grab the Islamic vote too and solve our terrorism problems once and for all in one swoop. There's no way Al Kaida and his countrymen will attack a country with a president with a Muslim child. This will help me get elected in other ways too. In fact, it might be the only way I can get more than the right wing nutbar vote. And as someone said, the only good Muslim is a dead Muslim; mine is already dead, so I win on that count too".

    Santorum was also overheard saying "I should come out of the closet while I'm at it. That way I can get the jump on those schoolboys that were about to report me. I've always liked jumping them."

    February 8, 2012 at 7:06 pm |
    • Flinders the butler

      Will you be taking tea in the drawing room, m'lady ?

      February 8, 2012 at 9:32 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.