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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. JDQ

    Santorum's answer to global warming is do deny it exists? Evolution is a myth? Our planet can support lots more people and therefore birth control should be illegal? Santorum is a prime example of why most of the people in this country with two brain cells to clank together will not support him. Family guy? Big deal, I know gay couples who are raising great kids, they're family guys too, and they have adopted some kids those straight, "normal" families abandoned.

    February 9, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
  2. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things ,

    February 9, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
    • Joe T.

      Your post wasn't true the first 10,000 times you wrote it. Nothing has changed.

      February 9, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
    • matt

      in YOUR opinion. i dont believe in god and i am perfectly happy

      February 9, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
    • Jay

      My kids are doing just fine thank you.
      I guess this little girl (and just too many kids like her in the US) wished she had been raised by saner parents
      http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1877352,00.html

      February 9, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
    • Periplaneta

      Well, if you attempt augment your personal prayer by donating money to a group of equally delusional persons talking to the same magic man in the sky, then there's certainly a change in your bank account.

      February 9, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
    • tokencode

      religion is a crutch for the feeble-minded

      February 9, 2012 at 8:51 pm |
  3. matt

    why would someone believing in a fairy tale about a being who made his only earthly presence a MAN mean thats a good thing about him? hes religious, which is a complete fairy tale. do YOU want your president believing in a false god?

    February 9, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
    • Thomistic

      So you are saying that we already have a president that believes in a false God and so he should be voted out of office, right?

      February 9, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
    • matt

      ha!
      good point Thomistic but America already voted him in, cant vote him out for being brainwashed. but we CAN prevent this in the future by not voting for anyone who actually believes in religion in the first place

      February 9, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
  4. Pee Tardy Patriot

    Hell, this guy is way smarter than our best climate scientists. He knows that global warming is just a hoax that was devised by devious devil worshiping Democrats. Don't you liberal dummies know that Home schooling is what made America such an inspiration for other less desirable countries around the world?

    February 9, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
    • Joe T.

      They do teach a lot about global warming and evolution at clown college.

      February 9, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
    • Thomistic

      Thank you for your statement. I thought that I was the only one to believe that Al Gore graduated from clown college.

      February 9, 2012 at 2:33 pm |
  5. toppgunnery

    This guy's stance on abortion is reason enough for me NOT to vote for him. This country has too many unneeded mouthes to feed as it is. We do not need more and cannot afford to pay for them either. Hell NO to Rick Sanitation!

    February 9, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
  6. Adam

    This seems to me, a list of 10 reasons to hate Santorum, not love him...

    February 9, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
  7. city1360

    Next time you call group of right-wing racists a bunch of idiots, you can back yourself up with one simple word: Science!
    Researchers from Ontario, Canada’s Brock University have been slaving over test results to come to the conclusion that many not-so-scientifically-inclined have said for ages — both right-wing thinkers and racists alike are kind of dumb.
    The conclusion comes after spotting a correlation between children with low IQs and their ideologies later in life. It turns out that those with limited intelligence at a younger age are more likely to exhibit racist tendencies and favor more conservative political thinking as adults.

    February 9, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
  8. MashaSobaka

    These are reasons to "love" him? I see these as reasons to fight to the death to keep him out of office.

    February 9, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
  9. Debby

    I am a Catholic went to Catholic schools and I think Santorum is a freak.

    February 9, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
    • mb2010a

      Hail, Mary...

      February 9, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
    • Thomistic

      What are you trying to imply? That you did not learn anything about Catholicism in school?

      February 9, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
    • meme

      You're a rational woman. Congrats.

      February 9, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
    • Joe Dokes

      Amen, sister. Mr. "Don't Google His Name" Santorum is just your typical Jesus freak. Ned Flanders without the mustache. If he had his way, the whole country would be under strict Papal doctrine. I went to Catholic school for 12 years and that was more than enough. Santorum? No thanks!!!

      February 9, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
  10. Jon Michael

    Since when did believing in God make a person someone to be made fun of or considered nuts? Science and God are not at odds. Human understanding of Science and interpretation of God are what are at odds. Religious people are not as righteous as they believe they are and scientists are not as smart as they think THEY are. Is the Earth warming? Maybe. Has it been proven? Nope. If the world IS warming, is it the result of a human industrial presence? See the previous answer.

    February 9, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
    • Adam

      Science is based in facts, seeking to prove the world we live in, and often succeeding.

      Magic sky wizards are based on myth and fear.

      They are absolutely at odds.

      February 9, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
    • Bert in UT

      Yeah! Now if he just weren't afraid to challenge math too . . .

      February 9, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
  11. David

    Well good on him for wanting to put gay people and muslims in jail, just wish he were harder on the jews. Seriously what king of article is this and why is it on CNN?

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

      Where does it say that he wants to put gay people or Muslims in jail?

      February 9, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
  12. john

    Immigration? no plans....tsk!..tsk!...Politicians until now don't get it!...this is one of the biggest issue people...solve it and let's all move on, people, business to boost the economy!

    February 9, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
  13. frodo1008

    Good Heavens!! At the very least #10 IS a very valid reason for anybody with any association with reason and science NOT to vote for this righteous clown!! Besides which President Obama exhibits every bit as much of good family values as Santorum any day! If this is the best that the right wing Republicans can come up with then they had better be prepared for four more years of President Obama with a landslide vote!!!!!!

    February 9, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
    • Thomistic

      Using your statement I guess that you will vote for him. You do not appear to use reason or understand science.

      February 9, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
  14. mb2010a

    Ummm...these are ten reasons why he was only a one-term senator, also. No one LIKES Santorum, they merely tolerate him for the moment...

    February 9, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
  15. james

    The author seemed to forget the part about returning our country to the social mores and values of the middle ages, declaring war on all possible Muslim countries, showing more loyalty to Israel than to American strategic interests in the world, creating a theocracy rather than respecting the will of our founding fathers, etc..

    Plenty to get excited about, indeed. Santorum in the White House would ensure that the world's nations would no longer accept the USA as a serious, thoughtful, or civilized member of mankind.

    February 9, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
  16. sharoom

    "Santorum isn’t afraid to challenge science, questioning the theory of evolution and dismissing global warming as 'a hoax.'"

    I shudder to think how a Santorum administration will guide science policy here in the USA.

    February 9, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
  17. EC

    He makes Catholics look bad. Catholics embrace science, first of all. In 17 years of Catholic school, I was never taught that gays would burn in hell, I was never taught that Adam and Eve fathered the human race. His kids should have been sent to parochial school, home-schooling is for freaks.

    February 9, 2012 at 2:13 pm |
    • Joe T.

      If Adam and Eve didn't father the human race... that means there was no original sin... which means there is no reason for Jesus... which means there is no reason for you to go to church.

      February 9, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
    • frodo1008

      While I do not totally disagree with you, there are many that home school not to indoctrinate their children into ANY religion. They are (like my children with their children) home schooling to concentrate their efforts on reading, writing, mathematics, and even true science itself!

      Please do not take the likes of Santorum as a typical home school-er!!! Heck, my grand kids can even handle a computer well.

      February 9, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
  18. Celeste

    This letter is written to The Prince of Peace,
    Please help us Lord Weed out the Problematic People of the Republican Party! Please help us and them reform the unusual ways that this particular group use your name to do and say the most evil combination of things against people, groups, families, associates, colleagues and our great President for the reward of Power and more Greed. Lord, we know if they were honest Christians, they would first follow the 10 commandments, but they are false prophets using the name of God in vain! Lord, if they were real Christians, they wouldn’t lie every time they open their mouth. Please Lord Guide the path of Newt, Rick, and Mitt safely back to their homes and Ron Paul back to the nut farm. Please open their eyes where they can see that they are evil and not the best person for or to run our country! Lord, please teach them that all people matter and that this world needs peace. We need Christian Republicans to stop their constant chaos and stop taking the tax payer’s money and not working for it! We ask that they try and be honest for just one day. In Jesus name!

    February 9, 2012 at 2:13 pm |
    • df1chicago

      now that's awesome!!!! good post.

      February 9, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
    • mb2010a

      Amen to that...

      February 9, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
    • Emily

      Amen!

      February 9, 2012 at 2:37 pm |
  19. toppgunnery

    Who needs Santorum...he's a PUTZ!!!

    February 9, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
  20. tokencode

    what type of backwards people see challenging science as a good thing? Science challenging itself is a good thing, religous nutcases challenging proven theories is dangerous

    February 9, 2012 at 2:11 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.