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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. Godfrey

    I'm with this Santorim fella. That there "evolution" stuff is a load o' horsefeathers. Them hoity-toity scientists don't know nothin' my ol' grandpappy didn't know, and he didn't never say nothin' about us bein' no monkeys.

    'Ceptinz my uncle Jed, God rest his soul. But that's a differn't story.

    February 9, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
    • DaveinSC

      After watching many of these debates, I beginning to question evolution also.

      February 9, 2012 at 2:42 pm |
    • Godfrey

      Dunno – that Gingrich fella has a look about him...

      February 9, 2012 at 2:57 pm |
    • Joe T.

      Godfrey, your comment made my day sir!

      February 9, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
    • Godfrey

      Thank ye Joe, but if you call me "sir" agin and I'll slap ya nekkid. We don't cotton to city ways in these parts.

      February 9, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
    • Joe T.

      To quote Roadhouse: "Callin' me sir is like puttin' an elevator in an outhouse. It don't belong."

      February 9, 2012 at 3:14 pm |
    • Godfrey

      Indubitably! You have evolved well, old chap.

      February 9, 2012 at 3:32 pm |
  2. DaveinSC

    Santorum's hit his peak. This is what's happened to every other GOP candidate. Once they get a small surge, their ideas become more widely known, and conservatives realize he's no longer electable against Obama, hence the 2 to 3 week surge, than done. Even conservatives realize that anyone who could meet their requirements could never get elected. It's like a snake eating it's own tail.

    February 9, 2012 at 2:37 pm |
  3. Rick

    http://spreadingsantorum.com/

    February 9, 2012 at 2:37 pm |
    • tb63

      OMG! Thank you!

      February 9, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
  4. Joop Kaashoek

    Evangelicals do not like catholics, but now they have no choice since their evangelical of choice Gingrich is such a corrupt person.

    February 9, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
    • Trevor

      Gingrich is a Catholic now. Ron Paul is the only Protestant in the race.

      February 9, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
    • VoiceOfReason

      If this is their only choice, they're in serious trouble.

      February 9, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
  5. Rick

    Do a google search on Santorum for the fun of it.

    February 9, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
  6. David

    The 10 reasons to like Santorum boil down to his being religious, close-minded, and not open to science or logical thinking about evidence. I don't see those as positives. I think Obama needs to go and consider Santorum the only one of the remaining 4 I would not vote for and would probably vote Libertarian instead.

    February 9, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
  7. JC

    He is the poster child for the psychotic ultra-rightwing neocon taliban, make no mistake about it they tell the christian god(and everyone else too for that matter) what his/the facts and truth are rather than the reverse which make their religion and those who practice and proselytizes it so perverse and it can only get worse.

    February 9, 2012 at 2:34 pm |
    • albertp

      This guy is a nutso, plain and simple. There is a reason he lost by so much in Pennsylvania. If here were ever to win, the dirt on him would be endless.

      February 9, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
  8. iamdeadlyserious

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evangelicalism

    The term is sometimes used more broadly, but it's meant to refer to Protestants who emphasize preaching the gospel wherever they go. Catholic dogma places the power in the hands of priests, and parishioners are not tasked with converting the populace, which inherently excludes them from being considered evangelical, by anyone's definition.

    February 9, 2012 at 2:32 pm |
    • What Is Truth

      Well said.

      February 9, 2012 at 2:39 pm |
  9. gj2001

    http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/attytood/136706293.html

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

      Everyone on this board should go and check this link out, it shows the real Rick Santorum, crazed lunatic from the eighth dimension.

      February 9, 2012 at 2:37 pm |
    • yikesboy

      Are we still interested in electing people we'd like to have as a neighbor or somebody to have a beer with? This man is the most dangerous of all the candidates as he actually believes the insanity he's peddling (anti-science, contraception and other stone-age views). Are we so lame an electorate as to be taken in by a seemingly nice guy who is obviously a devoted father and family man?
      Give me a cigar-poking intelligent President again that gets things done and represents the majority view!

      February 9, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
  10. CCollins

    I'm not sure what you were going for here... but you convinced me I do NOT want Santorum in the White House. Thanks for the info!

    February 9, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
    • Dallas Citz

      Wow, if half of your list of 10 reason is right. I would never vote for someone who seems like religion fanatic. Democratic party will be receiving my vote if this guy even nears the finish line.

      February 9, 2012 at 2:42 pm |
  11. iamdeadlyserious

    I love that one of his "positives" for the conservative Christian crowd is that he doesn't believe in science. Good to know that these people don't want a president to be burdened by pesky things like research and facts.

    February 9, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
  12. Rick_Santo

    Hell NO! Capital NO NO for Santorum! If He's getting every1's vote, Note mine. A presidential candidate with racial comments – I quote Santorum "I'm NOT gonna give your money to black people" but "I wanna give them the opportunity to earn it" Such comments should have been put behind us in this country.....One thing I know is American people knows better than that...not only cos is a Catholic. If he's religious person he should have allowed that religion to revive/shows in his life for him to be making such a racial comments..He also lied about it that he never said such a thing

    February 9, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
  13. bill.x

    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 2:28 pm |
  14. VoiceOfReason

    Are we no being allowed to criticize this guy or what? Who's in control over there?

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

      Let's start over then...Anyone who views "science as being at odds with a Christian worldview" has their head in the sand. This guy is so damaged by religious delusion that he would probably ban scientific research that contradicts his beliefs. Let's face it, he's so sick, he thinks his delusions are more truthful than science. What kind of "modern" man would think that?

      February 9, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
  15. Matt

    While I disagree with most of his views personally, I respect his compassion towards the poor. It's rare to see a religious conservative who can both talk the talk and walk the walk.

    February 9, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
  16. Rick_Santo

    Hell NO! Capital NO NO for Santorum! If He's getting every1's vote, Note mine. A presidential candidate with racial comments – I quote Santorum "I'm NOT gonna give your money to black people" but "I wanna give them the opportunity to earn it" Such comments should have been put behind us in this country.....One thing I know is American people knows better than that...not only cos is a Catholic. If he's religious person he should have allowed that religion to revive/shows in his life for him to be making such a racial comments..He also lied about it that he never said such a thing.

    February 9, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
  17. matt

    whats the reasons that he doesnt think gays should marry?

    February 9, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
    • iamdeadlyserious

      The voices in his head don't agree with it.

      February 9, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
  18. heimdal

    Ugh, this guy is the worst of the lot he's a complete nut job who would set the country back a couple hundred years if he had his way. Honestly if he wasn't in politics he would prob be out bombing abortion clinics and organizing hate crimes/ protest against gays and other minoritys and religions that didn't share his view. This guy reminds me of a ex who got "religion" and went around accusing anyone who didn't follow her beliefs of devil worshiping. Of course her beliefs change from hour to hour as to what suited her at the time. The whole science thing omg all i can say to that is this kinda of view of u have believe what i say because i say it though i have no evidence while i wont believe what u say is true because u say it even though u do have evidence is just so idiotic.

    February 9, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
  19. facefur

    There are lots of "family men" out there. That just puts Santorum into the crowd. As for being "adopted" by evangelicals, why does everyone assume that Catholics are not or cannot be evangelical? His challenges to accepted science simply reinforce the impression people are forming of him not as a conservative Republican, but a nut-case Republican. Mr. Santorum may have done well in the last couple of primaries, but his positions would be cannon fodder for the Democratic campaign ads painting him as a nut case. He would not stand much of a chance, even against Obama.

    February 9, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
    • iamdeadlyserious

      Evangelicalism is a Protestant sect. So Catholics can't be Evangelicals.

      February 9, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
    • facefur

      By the way, the Catholic Church has never voiced any objection to modern science (unless you count the development of contraceptive drugs and practices), so his challenge to science isn't even consistent with his faith. He's probably pandering to the literal Bible-pounders.

      February 9, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
    • facefur

      @iam – evangelism is a practice, not a sect (except maybe in their own minds). Christ told his followers to "make disciples of all men, baptizing them ..." That's the principle of evangelism.

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

      Sorry, this got posted above. Must have forgotten to hit the reply button.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evangelicalism

      The term is sometimes used more broadly, but it's meant to refer to Protestants who emphasize preaching the gospel wherever they go. Catholic dogma places the power in the hands of priests, and parishioners are not tasked with converting the populace, which inherently excludes them from being considered evangelical, by anyone's definition.

      February 9, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
    • Happy Episcopalian

      @facefur

      While Protestants view the "Great Commission" as applying to all, general Catholic dogma is that it was only to the disciples and their heirs, the Catholic clergy.

      February 9, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
  20. NKP

    Another Bush! OMG..

    February 9, 2012 at 2:24 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.