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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. Mike

    10 reasons why CNN shows a picture of people praying around Rick to try and discredit him, as if he was sitting in a church, LIKE OBAMA DID, with a minister trashing the country that he was suppose to lead. How Obama sitting in that church was with a radical minister was not as important and people praying around Rick... in typical leaning left fashion CNN. Good Job!

    February 9, 2012 at 1:43 pm |
    • bill.x

      as a catholic, i rather the church stay out of my bed room and my politics. if they need to allay my fears and concerns, i would like to know what will be done about predator preist and how protected are our childern that we expose to the church. perhaps mr. Santorum has an opinion on that, if not a solution – or are our civil laws beyond the purview of the church.

      February 9, 2012 at 1:45 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      Santorum is the one throwing his religion out there like a blanket, dont blame the media for showing him praying. If you dont like it then tell Rick not to flash his belief so much.

      February 9, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
  2. the bottom line

    I don't see how big a deal it is to put up a bill that will never get through the House, other than to say in the future "Look what a good boy I am, please love me". And if he's that hot about one thing that Leviticus said, how come he dodn't put out a bill about banning clothes of mized cloth?

    February 9, 2012 at 1:43 pm |
  3. Diana Cole

    WOW! And this guy is real...PLEASE. Just another phony Christian! Just what America needs!

    February 9, 2012 at 1:43 pm |
  4. monk

    7 children , is that qualification for US President . sick people

    February 9, 2012 at 1:43 pm |
  5. manyote

    A combo of John Ashcroft and Michelle Bachmann on steroids.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:43 pm |
  6. d

    "He's not afraid to challenge science." That is, he's not afraid to be completely wrong and trust his gut over actual facts. No thanks.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:42 pm |
  7. Frank

    The picture taken at the conference where the Texas pastors are placing their hands on Santorum and praying is just creepy

    February 9, 2012 at 1:41 pm |
  8. CommonSenseChannel

    Reason #11..because so many of posters on this thread hate him.....

    February 9, 2012 at 1:41 pm |
  9. bill.x

    as a catholic, i rather the church stay out of my bed room and my politics. if they need to allay my fears and concerns, i would like to know what will be done about predator preist and how protected are our childern that we expose to the church. perhaps mr. Santorum has an opinion on that, if not a solution – or are our civil laws beyond the purview of the church.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:41 pm |
  10. Jon

    Things we shouldn't like about Santorum:

    1) He voted for just about every major initiative of the Bush administration, including the War in Iraq;

    2) We've got bigger problems to worry about right now than this culture war bull – and everyone knows it;

    3) Google.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:41 pm |
  11. Sam

    "Not afraid to challenge science"? Lets hit the thesaurus for the word "science".
    So, you're saying that Santorum is:

    "Not afraid to challenge education"
    "Not afraid to challenge information"
    "Not afraid to challenge wisdom"

    Thank you, Dan Gilgoff, for making me aware of this man's backwards views. I'll be spreading this awareness to everyone I know.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:41 pm |
  12. Nick

    Oh yeah not to mention, This guy wants to turn America into a Theocratic state.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
  13. ART

    Doug you are a moron, most definately

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

    Scary guy, very scary guy!

    February 9, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
  15. Leon

    -10.Santorum isn’t afraid to challenge science, questioning the theory of evolution and dismissing global warming as “a hoax.”
    I say, it is embarrassing for America when chalenging science in the 21 century is viewed as sometihng positive by a lot of people in this country.

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

      It is a positive thing to and extent. Science can't (excuse my poor choice of words) evolve if people are just rolling over and accepting everything as it comes off the press. And he is questioning the theory of evolution, which is only a theory, not proven.

      February 9, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
    • Suckedintothedebate

      It is a positive thing to an extent. Science can't (excuse my poor choice of words) evolve if people are just rolling over and accepting everything as it comes off the press. And he is questioning the theory of evolution, which is only a theory, not proven.

      February 9, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      gravity is a theory as well.

      I just wish people would stop being so ignorant as to confuse a scientific theory with the everyday use of the word.

      February 9, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
  16. EastCoastMike

    This fool shouldn't be allowed near the White House.....even if he pays to take the tour.

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

    #s 4 and 5? Really??? Just as Romney's religion doesn't put me off, Santorum's religion DEFINITELY doesn't bring me closer to him! GIve the religion card a rest (just like the race card when it comes to Obama). Religion shapes an person and every religion preaches goodness, and I am all for that, but I am NOT voting for a man's religion.

    GIVE IT A REST! I am soooo over it!

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

      You forgot to mention he's a bigot.

      February 9, 2012 at 1:43 pm |
  18. JR

    He basically told my wife that if we can not afford health insurance for our son, who is sick, then that is too bad. My son asked him at one of his rallies here in Colorado what he will do to lower the cost of insurance and medicine and he said if you can't afford it your not gotta get it. He said the pharmaceutical companies needed to make MORE profit. I would never vote for an idiot like this. It is amazing that these "rich" people don't know what it is like to have to worry about medical costs.

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

      lie.

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

      LOL Sorry, JR, I don't believe a word you said! You're funny

      February 9, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
  19. Joe

    I prayed for religion to leave politics last night. And I'm an Atheist!

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

      I AGREE WITH YOU IT'S TIME TO LEAVE RELIGION OUT OF IT

      February 9, 2012 at 1:43 pm |
    • JJ

      Atheism is nonsensical. Even pro choice groups have admitted the concept of creator and life at this point. They admit the miracle of human creation is too profound and complex.. They now live on the choice point. Stop saying you don't believe in God and just admit you just don't want to submit to a righteous and holy God who doesn't live to serve you.

      February 9, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
    • Fallacy Spotting 101

      Post by JJ is an instance of the Argument from Ignorance fallacy.

      http://www.iep.utm.edu/fallacy/#H6

      February 9, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      "Even pro choice groups have admitted the concept of creator and life at this point. They admit the miracle of human creation is too profound and complex"

      wow you do spout some nonsense, you really do. didnt you know that bearing false witness is a big no-no?

      February 9, 2012 at 2:33 pm |
    • Darrin

      What did you pray to, Joe? Goofball!!!

      February 9, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
  20. Mike

    Ugh. Really? Open your eyes and stop being afraid. This guy is off the deep end.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:39 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.