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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. paul

    As for #5 & #6: My ferret is not Mitt Romney or Newt Gingrich either- That doesn't mean he make a good president. (besides, usually when we elect a rodent, they are of the "rat" variety!)

    February 9, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
  2. Nancy Hoffman

    Rick Santorum is a narrow minded, judgemental, self-righteous individual who wants to make laws for this whole country based on his personal interpretation of the Bible. News flash: America is NOT a theocracy.

    February 9, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
  3. Just google his name

    Of course the conservatives love Mr. Frothy Mix.

    February 9, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
  4. Pee Tardy Patriot

    Hell, this guy ain't one of them not so real conservatives or even somewhat conservatives. He is the real deal baby! I bet he likes families and their values and such, very very much, just like me. That's the American way baby! I like families so much I want to scream sometimes. I hate condoms and fornicating more than anybody!

    February 9, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
  5. bananaspy

    Challenging science, when you are not a scientist, or even knowledgeable in the field you're challenging (Biology and dozens of others that not use evolution to make very accurate predictions) is idiotic, not a virtue.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
    • RM13

      Unfortunately, the GOP has succeeded in turning knowledge into a vice rather than virtue. To me this is a sad statement not just of the GOP but of our society in general. How we got to a point where the highly educated are scorned/distrusted and those without knowledge are blindly followed I have no idea...but it makes me sad.

      February 9, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
    • concerned in cleveland

      Did you ever consider that blindly believing in something that you're not an expert in is just as idiotic?

      3000 years ago, ooo the river flooded because Olympus is angry, give me offerings so that I can give them to Zeus
      1000 year ago, ooo the river flooded because you're all sinners, give me offerings to that I can give them to the Church
      Today, ooo the river flooded because you're all carbon footprint sinners, give me offerings so that I can heal the planet.

      Nothing has changed. Sheep still follow. Liars still lead. Brave men still challenge those that profit from it.

      February 9, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      so please do tell us the criteria you use as to whether you believe what scientists are telling you concerned because as pretty that story you told us was it carried no weight.

      February 9, 2012 at 2:45 pm |
  6. Joe T.

    I refuse to vote for anybody who refuses to acknowledge that evolution exists.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
  7. amy

    What I don't get is that these extremists love to use fear as a major tactic – fear some gay couple might get next to your children and bring them to the dark side or fear that some crazed hippy lefty woman is going to rush into your house and make you have an abortion or send grandma to the death panel. So they missed the boat with this "climate change is a hoax" thing. I could be scared pantless by climate change.

    OH wait, I remember now. If scientists say it's so, it must then be wrong. And not only wrong, but made up propaganda. OK, I could just about get skepticism 5 years ago when data was about fluffy to the average Joe, but now, it's simply dangerous to fill people with that kind of drivel. Besides, why would someone make that up?? I don't get it.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
  8. Ryan

    No matter what good things you can say about Santorum, the can all be negated by #10; the Fact that he does not believe in Facts.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
    • Rick

      Who need actual facts when you got a book written by some primitive trolls two thousand years ago telling you what to "fact" is.

      February 9, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
  9. Queen Lattice

    "Linda" said it best! – The same ten reasons not to vote for him He's anti- science, anti -woman, anti- environment and wants to return to the dark ages – this is not American values.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
  10. lkft

    I like what I'm seeing in Santorum. His views on the issues definitely line up w/mine. For those of you who have different views...please leave. You have plenty of idiots out there from which to choose.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
    • Rick

      So because other candidates have different ideals that makes them an idiot?

      February 9, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
    • jml

      Please leave because some have differing views? Yep, this falls in line with the open-mindedness this group likes, non-existant

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

      Yes rick hes an idiot

      February 9, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
    • amy

      You really think climate change is a hoax? Really? I get agreeing with him on things of faith, but that is science. Do you disagree with all science? I'm just wondering since I find it so hard to believe that anyone smart enough to write a post really doesn't believe it's real. Even evolution I can see is trickier, especially with all the misinformation thrown out there to confuse people – although I personally have no doubts about evolution.

      February 9, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
    • Steve0499

      I am getting really tired of the super religous forcing their views on the rest of us. I don't believe the fairy tales that make up all religons, it does not make me a bad person, just an intelligent one.

      February 9, 2012 at 2:05 pm |
    • Scientist

      Amy you are right evolution is real I'm a scientist

      February 9, 2012 at 2:05 pm |
  11. Joe DeAmicis

    He thinks global warming is a "hoax" as the ice caps melt before our eyes. With overwhelming evidence that species evolve over time to meet the conditions they live in he questions the validity of what nearly every credible scientist on earth says is undeniable? Do you really want someone in the White House dictating their religious ideology over an entire country? Has it ever occured to anyone that the Mid-East is so screwed up because they mix religion and politics? Wow... forgive me for staying this but God help us if someone like Santorum becomes our next Pope...err excuse me President.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
  12. Rick

    "Strength through Unity. Unity through Faith" ...soon

    February 9, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
  13. P.G

    Frothy mixture

    February 9, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
  14. Joe T.

    He won't win the nomination anyway. Would you want to vote for a weirdo who takes his dead baby home so his kids can get a good look? Yeah, I'm sorry he lost his child but that doesn't cover over something so bizarre and twisted.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
  15. mikeb

    Wow sounds like a member of a Taliban sleeper cell. I would investigate his a–, strip search him at the airports, put listening devices in his house and freeze his bank accounts. Maybe send him on a trip to Gitmo. Views are exactly same as the Taliban/Sharia. In fact more dangerous because he claims to be a Christian. That way he can infiltrate America like a virus and nobody will even suspect.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
    • Tyler Durden

      Reading comprehension > you. From the article "He’s a devout cradle Catholic...".

      February 9, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
    • doug

      ditto, and the fact that he took a still born back home to show his other children, that's a little strange. Self righteous is his middle name. Home school you sure don't get to see any other group ideas or thoughts. That makes for real tolerant folks.. A older Jewish man told me " I am afraid of fanatic of any kind because they can't see anyone's else opinion.

      February 9, 2012 at 2:09 pm |
  16. joe

    These seem more like 10 reasons to NOT like Rick Santorum.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
    • Lee

      My thoughts exactly....

      February 9, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
  17. News broadcasts and lack thereof

    Is this news? And: How come the CNN main page states "10 reasons to love R S.." When the real headline is "10 reasons [why] religious conservatives love R S].
    Shame on you!! Sounds biased to me. There is plenty of space under the image thumbnail to state correctly what the articl is about.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
  18. Linda

    The same ten reasons not to vote for him He's anti- science, anti -woman, anti- environment and wants to return to the dark ages – this is not American values.

    February 9, 2012 at 1:52 pm |
    • Jen

      Really? He loves his wife, loves his daughters, and loves future women so much he doesn't want them to be senselessly killed. Sounds pro-women to me.

      February 9, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
  19. gumbalay

    Rick San-SCROTUM

    February 9, 2012 at 1:52 pm |
  20. aj

    Just what we need, a Christian theocracy with Christian social polices as national policies. Yee Haw

    February 9, 2012 at 1:52 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.