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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. MRMR

    maybe we ought to tax the churches and tax the business's own by the churches.

    February 9, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
  2. rugger08

    More like 10 reasons to be afraid of Santorum. The man cares only about instilling his religous views which we will all have to live by. Call me crazy but wasn't this country founded on the idea on religous tolerance? Trying to get people to abide by laws that were created from religous principles isn't being tolerant of other peoples views. I really hope he doesn't get elected as I'm not about to follow the laws of a religion that I'm not even apart of.

    February 9, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
  3. DD

    You can love him all you want, but these are 10 reasons why he is not the best person to lead the United States of America.

    February 9, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
  4. News broadcasts and lack thereof

    1. Family man: so are Romney and Obama (not Newt)
    2. Politically incorrect, culture warrior?? But “class warrior” is bad when Obama does it?
    3. Homeschooling? What? It’s an achievement to live in a narrow little bubble?
    4. Public piety = pharisees WWJD? Honorary evangelical? But otherwise Catholicism is not a religion according to those same evangelicals
    5. Santorum, the not-Romney. Now that’s sound decision making.
    6. The not-Gingrich. Sure, who wants to be newt. But women supporting Santorum’s fundamentalism? Woman, obey thy husband? Wow. Brainless
    7. Not ‘just’ opposing religion? Wow, crystal clear now that Santorum is NOT interested in All Americans, as he claimed, only the rightwingers.
    8. Anti-gay Santorum. Sure, that makes him a uniter (of the fanatics) and soon also a violator of legal principles.
    9. compassionate conservatism. Oh yeah, like the “kinder gentler conservatism” or “I don’t care about poor Americans”, or gays, or single mothers or the middle classes.
    10. Not afraid “to challenge science”. WOW. That does it. Anybody aligning himself with that turd just shows how brainless this movement is. The internet is based on scientific principles (electricity, physics, computing, production knowledge), yet we read this dum.b azz article about somebody who denies the achievements of science – we read it on the Internet. I R O N Y (hint: this does not mean “ I [am] Rony”… lol)

    February 9, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
  5. MRMR

    This guy is scary... What if I am not religious? Does that mean I have no morals? Get a grip people. What some people's morals are might not be the same as other peoples. What right do they have to force their morals on me? That's why there is separation of church and state. not everybody believes in the same thing .. does that make them bad people?
    Religion is like Law its all in who is interpreting it.

    February 9, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
  6. James

    That last point caught me up. Science is not against religion. Religion has a problem with science when it makes it uncomfortable to believe what they do. But that is not the goal of science. Also to say that Santorum in some way "Challenges" science is untrue. He does not challenge science, he says it is a hoax. How is that a challenge. He shows no supporting evidence, provides no intellectual argument, so no challenge. I am religious and do not see calling science a hoax as a plus. But maybe I'm just not "religious" enough, because I still believe in the scientific method and facts.

    February 9, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
  7. tokencode

    Santorum represents the worst of the GOP, socially backwards and fiscally liberal.

    February 9, 2012 at 2:09 pm |
  8. Switters

    Dear GOP-

    Please nominate Rick Santorum, please, please, please

    BHO

    February 9, 2012 at 2:08 pm |
    • cj

      Be careful what you wish for. That is the same thing they said when Regan was running and you saw how that ended.

      February 9, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
    • Stentor

      CJ, Santorum is no Ronald Reagan. If he gets nominated we are finally going to have a showdown between those who want to run this country as a religious theocracy, and those of us who believe in the separation of church & state. They are going to come pouring out of every rathole, militia compound, homeschool, private school, nook & cranny of the heartland to vote for the Christo-Fascist candidate. But I'll give you a hint who wins, there's more of us than there are of them, but they think it's the other way around. Nothing like self-delusion to fuel dreams of grandeur.

      February 9, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
  9. martog

    1. You believe that the pope has personal conversations with God (that nobody else ever hears) and is infallible when speaking on matters of Church doctrine. You then wistfully ignore the fact that Church doctrine changes and that former popes therefore could not possibly have been “infallible”. Limbo, for example, was touted by pope after pope as a place where un-baptized babies who die go, until Pope Benedict XVI just eradicated it (or, more accurately, so watered it down as effectively eradicate it in a face saving way). Seems all those earlier “infallible” Popes were wrong – as they were on Adam and Eve v. evolution, heliocentricity v. egocentricity, and a host of other issues that required an amendment of official Church doctrine. You also ignore the innumerable murders, rampant corruption and other crimes committed over the centuries by your “infallible”, god-conversing popes.
    2. You reject the existence of thousands of gods claimed by other religions, but feel outraged when someone denies the existence of yours. You are blissfully (or intentionally) blind to the fact, that had you been born in another part of the World, you would be defending the local god(s) and disdaining the incorrectness of Catholic beliefs.
    3. You begrudgingly accept evolution (about a century after Darwin proved it and after accepting Genesis as literally true for about 2,000 years) and that Adam and Eve was totally made up, but then conveniently ignore that fact that your justification for Jesus dying on the cross (to save us from Original Sin) has therefore been eviscerated. Official Church literature still dictates a belief in this nonsense.
    4. You disdain native beliefs as “polytheist” and somehow “inferior” but cannot explain (i) why being polytheistic is any sillier than being monotheistic. Once you make the quantum leap into Wonderland by believing in sky-fairies, what difference does if make if you believe in one or many?; nor (ii) why Christians believe they are monotheistic, given that they believe in god, the devil, guardian angels, the holy spirit, Jesus, many demons in hell, the Virgin Mary, the angel Gabriel, thousands of saints, all of whom apparently make Earthly appearances periodically, and all of whom inhabit their life-after-death lands with magic-sacred powers of some kind.
    5. You bemoan the "atrocities" attributed to Allah, but you don`t even flinch when hearing about how God/Jehovah slaughtered all the babies of Egypt in "Exodus" and ordered the elimination of entire ethnic groups in "Joshua" including women, children, and trees or the 3,000 Israelites killed by Moses for worshipping the golden calf (or the dozen or so other slaughters condoned by the bible). You also like to look to god to for guidance in raising your children, ignoring the fact that he drowned his own – according to your Bible.
    6. You laugh at Hindu beliefs that deify humans, and Greek claims about gods sleeping with women, but you have no problem believing that God impregnated Mary with himself, to give birth to himself, so he could sacrifice himself to himself to “forgive” an ”Original Sin” that we now all know never happened.
    7. You disdain gays as sinners, but have no problem when Lot got drunk and committed father-daughter in.cest (twice) or offered his daughters to a mob to be gang ra.ped, or when Moses, time and again, offered his wife up for the “pleasures” of the Egyptians to save his own skin.
    8. You believe that your god will cause anyone who does not accept your Bronze Age stories to suffer a penalty an infinite times worse than the death penalty (burning forever in excruciating torture) simply because of their healthy skepticism, yet maintain that god “loves them”.
    9. You will totally reject any scientific breakthrough that is inconsistent with your established doctrine, unless and until it is so generally accepted as to back you into a corner. While modern science, history, geology, biology, and physics have failed to convince you of the deep inanity of your silly faith, some priest doing magic hand signals over bread and wine is enough to convince you it is thereby transformed into the flesh and blood of Jesus because of the priest’s magic powers (or “sacred powers” to the extent you see a difference).
    10. You define 0.01% as a "high success rate" when it comes to Lourdes, Fátima and other magic places and prayers in general. You consider that to be evidence that prayer works. The remaining 99.99% failure was simply “god moving in mysterious ways”. The fact that, if you ask for something repeatedly, over and over, year after year, sooner or later that thing is bound to happen anyway, has not even occurred to you. A stopped clock is right twice a day.
    11. You accept the stories in the Bible without question, despite not having the slightest idea of who actually wrote them, how credible these people were or how long the stories were written after the alleged events they record occurred. For example, it is impossible for Moses to have written the first five books of the Old Testament, as Catholics believe. For one, they record his death and events after his death. In fact, the chance of the Bible being historically accurate in any but the broadest terms is vanishingly small.
    Heavens, I could not fit them into ten. Maybe, if they pray hard enough to their sky-fairy, the Catholics can turn them into 10

    February 9, 2012 at 2:08 pm |
    • Republitard

      Very well said!

      February 9, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
    • Joe T.

      Hey pal, logic has no place in a discussion about religious beliefs.

      February 9, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
  10. Kathleen

    CNN, your front-page headline says "10 Reasons to Love Santorum." That's a crock - the only people who love Santorum are the Christian fundies; the rest of the country can see how loathsome and dangerous this religious zealot is.

    February 9, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
    • Stentor

      Kathleen, that and the fact they forgot to include Reason Number 11. We (Democrats) love him because he will assure Obama of a win in November!!! Yaaayy!!!!!

      February 9, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
  11. steveB

    Santorum isn’t afraid to challenge science: This is a virtue??? Sounds like ignorance in the extreme and a regression to the Dark Ages. Much of cancer & disease research relies on our knowledge of development & evolution, so would 'science doubters' refuse treatments for themselves or their family members?

    February 9, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
  12. Kandi

    Based on 7, 8, 9 & 10 he will not get my vote.

    February 9, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
  13. asdf

    "isn't afraid to challenge science" – i.e. "is willing to bury his head in the sand when presented with reality he doesn't like."

    February 9, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
  14. jk105

    The 10 Reason Conservative Christians love Santorum is the reason why I am morally repelled by Conservative Christians.

    February 9, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
  15. dave

    1-2 I can respect, 3-9 scare me. 10 is a big no way in hell Rick... next please.

    February 9, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
  16. MITT ROMNEY

    Now that the rightwing base finally realizes how the Tea Party has destroyed this country and made a mockery of our democracy...they have come to ten conclusions....

    1. DIVIDE THE DELEGATES SO NO REPUBLICAN GETS NOMINATED!
    2. DIVIDE THE DELEGATES SO NO REPUBLICAN GETS NOMINATED!
    3. DIVIDE THE DELEGATES SO NO REPUBLICAN GETS NOMINATED!
    4. DIVIDE THE DELEGATES SO NO REPUBLICAN GETS NOMINATED!
    5. DIVIDE THE DELEGATES SO NO REPUBLICAN GETS NOMINATED!
    6. DIVIDE THE DELEGATES SO NO REPUBLICAN GETS NOMINATED!
    7. DIVIDE THE DELEGATES SO NO REPUBLICAN GETS NOMINATED!
    8. DIVIDE THE DELEGATES SO NO REPUBLICAN GETS NOMINATED!
    9. DIVIDE THE DELEGATES SO NO REPUBLICAN GETS NOMINATED!
    10. DIVIDE THE DELEGATES SO NO REPUBLICAN GETS NOMINATED!

    PS. Don't forget to vote for me though, I hate poor people!

    February 9, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
  17. tokencode

    There are far more than 10 reasons to not lik Santorum. Bigotry and the fact the Pennsylvannia kicked out at the first oppurtunity come to mind. Someone who does not believe in equal rights for all American citizens has no right being President.

    February 9, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
  18. Antonio666

    Right here I see ten reasons to strongly OPPOSE Santorum. He denies basic science when it proves to be inconvenient. He is willing to deny rights to a segment of the population simply because they happen to be a minority. The fear that John Kennedy would take orders from the Vatican in 1960 proved to be unfounded. The fear that Santorum will is real and frightening. I can only hope that he gets the GOP nomination and a rational American public will consign him to the ashcan of history with a landslide victory for President Obama.

    February 9, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
  19. Carla Vazq

    He won't win.

    February 9, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
  20. Raquelita

    Aswsome!! Now I know who to vote for. 10 reasons to bring this county back to being respected, moral values, and liberty all the way!!

    February 9, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
    • rick santorumtwit... America's favorite frothy one

      But if Santorum becomes president he will criminalize masturbation. Then what are you going to do? Sneak into Canada everytime you want to play with yourself?

      February 9, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
    • steveB

      Respected?? The rest of the world is laughing at us b/c Santorum is still in the race. Check out a real news sources like BBC

      February 9, 2012 at 2:09 pm |
    • Kandi

      @rick santorumtwit...I'll screw you for that kind of humor! Meet me at the bar tonight!

      February 9, 2012 at 2:10 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.