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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. staneve

    Can someone on the next debate ask Santorum: 1) when will he release his taxes? 2) Besides his sooo perfect social issues which he's trying to blind the voters as he thinks we're all stupid, and T Tebow genuine belief cannot be compared with Santorum, he's fake, this is a question for him: what will he do to restore the economy and we need details of his previous success on the economy if he has one. We need Santorum to talk about jobs, jobs jobs, his social issues will not stop the banks to foreclose our houses, pout food on the table or pay for our kids education. Santorum is FAKE, don't believe NOTHING that come from his mounth, HE CANNOT BE THE NOMINEE needless to say HE WILL NOT win the general election.

    February 9, 2012 at 3:24 pm |
  2. MN

    Rick-you've got my vote!!! Our country is a complete disaster because we have all strayed from the Word of God...we'll be praying for you!!!

    February 9, 2012 at 3:23 pm |
    • Periplaneta

      Rick, you've got my vote in the republican primary too!. I don't think there would be an easier opponent for Obama to beat, and keep us from sliding back into the Dark Ages.

      February 9, 2012 at 3:25 pm |
    • Elliot

      You want to force your beliefs on me? You will soon see what force really is my friend.

      February 9, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
    • James

      He has my vote, as well!

      February 9, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
    • A S

      You are the reason the WORLD is a disaster, because you "follow the word of God".

      February 9, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
    • gihaddd

      Do you talk about religion every time you open your mouth or just every time we talk about politics?

      February 9, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
  3. Jean Sartre, Milwauke, WI

    Faith based cretins and religious folks are exactly what is wrong with our country; these delusional folks have taken over our government!

    February 9, 2012 at 3:23 pm |
    • MN

      That is soooo wrong...our country is a disaster because we have stopped asking the Lord for direction. Look back in the history books. This country is falling apart faster than we can believe and people are seeking to look out for themselves instead of what the Lord wants. Just think about the abortion rates, divorce rates...so many people forget to love one another and forgive one another. I pray PRAY that a man like Rick gets elected. The Bible is the way of truth and I pray that the Holy Spirit is revealed to all here who are so against it.

      February 9, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
    • James

      Silly person...we've always been there...well, up until Obama.

      February 9, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
  4. Elliot

    #11: He likes to play pattie cake with his dead babies he brings home.

    February 9, 2012 at 3:20 pm |
    • Bannister

      Real classy, Elliot.

      February 9, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
    • gihaddd

      I think its quite fitting.

      February 9, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
  5. KyleA1968

    I’m a devout Christian and even I see how Santorum is just completely wrong for this country. He gives followers of Jesus a terrible image. What business is it of Santorum’s, mine, or yours, that non-Christian people don’t want to follow Christian beliefs? That’s like expecting Christians to follow Muslim beliefs. It’s simply wrong to force our beliefs onto others when what they do in the privacy of their own home is none of our business. That’s why atheists hate us to begin with. I wish more of my parish knew to mind their own business. God wants you to take care of your family first. I don’t care if your gay, Muslim, or whatever. It’s none of my business so long as it doesn’t hurt me or my family.

    February 9, 2012 at 3:19 pm |
    • kayray

      Too bad there aren't more like you.

      February 9, 2012 at 3:22 pm |
    • JT

      As an atheist, I wished your fellow Christians would follow your lead.

      February 9, 2012 at 3:22 pm |
    • nicole

      thanks for posting!

      February 9, 2012 at 3:23 pm |
    • gin

      amen.

      February 9, 2012 at 3:23 pm |
    • Nick

      i wish everyone was like you

      February 9, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
    • MN

      Jesus is the way, the truth, the life...NO ONE comes to the father except through him.

      This is the only way to heaven...being a 'good person' will not be enough when you are facing God on judgement day. True christians know this truth and if you don't or are mad about it...pray, seek counsel and read the bible.

      February 9, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
    • guest

      KyleA1968 I see your point – no one should FORCE anyone about anything (emphasis on FORCE since thats the word you used). Also the Christian life is not about ONE and his/her family ALONE. Yes...DO NOT FORCE... but also remember GO AND MAKE DISCIPLES. I am not a fan of Santorum for the record.

      February 9, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
    • KyleA1968

      guest – Yes, guest, we are to make disciples and believers, but as "MN" is suggesting, when you use force to do it, you are no better than those who enacted the Spanish Inquisition. And look how that turned out. You're not going to convert anyone by beating them over the head. Would you rather learn salvation from someone who wants to deliver it upon your brow by repeated blows with an iron mace, or from someone who is willing to sit with you and explain it in a calm, caring, and friendly way?

      A vote for Rick is a vote for the mace, and I don't believe Jesus would have ever wanted it that way.

      February 9, 2012 at 4:08 pm |
    • Guest

      KyleA1968 I get your point. But don't say as along as it doesn't affect me or my family. You can still share Jesus and what He taught in a friendly not forceful way even if decisions made by that individual or organization doesn't affect you or your family. That's my point.

      February 9, 2012 at 4:56 pm |
  6. Bromley

    What about the fact that he was soundly defeated for re-election as a Senator....what didn't they like enough to kick him out?

    February 9, 2012 at 3:18 pm |
  7. gihaddd

    how about the ten reasons Rick would make a corrupt president. Id much rather read that instead.

    February 9, 2012 at 3:18 pm |
  8. Carlton

    What I love is that this man realizes that we all need God, on another, and family. This takes genuine and sincere humility. Many people lack this in this country, especially politicians. Most are prideful and arrogant and believe this is the right way to be. Look at our country and the direction politicians want to take it. Only God know how, when, and where to take us, and that place is always better then where we can take ourselves. Santorum has my vote for sure because understands this!

    February 9, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
    • gin

      What if you don't believe in god? I for one don't want some bible thumper telling me how to live my life and that is exactly what he would try to do.

      February 9, 2012 at 3:20 pm |
    • Joe T.

      That's weird because I don't have God and I've done pretty well for myself.

      February 9, 2012 at 3:21 pm |
    • Nick

      because religion in government has worked so well throughout history right?

      February 9, 2012 at 3:21 pm |
    • Juxtsupose

      I agree. He is a family man, and I like that. I am a values voter first. That is why Newt is so repulsive. But I have to argue, Romney is every bit a family man that RIck, but with 10x the success.

      February 9, 2012 at 3:21 pm |
    • KyleA1968

      We all need God but forcing faith on others is just going to make things worse. The Lord gave us free will for a reason. You can’t impose your will on others just because you think you’re right. They have to want to change. You can tell them about the error of their ways, but forcing Jesus on someone, either by pushing it in their face, or by voting for someone, is not the way to go and it’s not the way Jesus would have wanted them to join. Open your arms, and let others see the light and come to you.

      February 9, 2012 at 3:23 pm |
    • Elliot

      So you are for forcing people to be religious and abide to your beliefs? You belive it's the government's job to enforce what you consider moral? That really sounds like small government staying out of peoples lives....please stay away from my family and friends.

      February 9, 2012 at 3:24 pm |
    • gihaddd

      I hate to burst your bubble but Gods not running this country. What we really need is an older more experienced candidate who leaves out his religious beliefs for the good of the people. Were at a time now where we need be be more accepting of other religions. So we'd be better off leaving out religion and worrying about the important stuff like why were still in Iraq, why so much $ is going to wall street, guns in mexico, Syria, there to much going on to put our Country in the hands of children, which is practically what every candidate is this year. Unexperienced corrupt children.

      February 9, 2012 at 3:25 pm |
    • MN

      Amen Carlton! and I just get so sad when people are so blinded by the enemy...Satan is lurking in every corner, nook and crany...

      February 9, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
  9. tessie

    Why does he scare so many people?

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

      Moobs

      February 9, 2012 at 3:16 pm |
    • Joe T.

      I agree with ya. We don't need one of them there silly candidates with all that fancy book learning.

      February 9, 2012 at 3:18 pm |
    • kayray

      He wants to legislate morality and doesn't believe in the separation of church and state? Do you want live in a theocracy? If you do there's a place called Saudi Arabia. I'm sure you would have tons of fun there.

      February 9, 2012 at 3:24 pm |
    • scaredsilly

      I'm a white female, straight, christian and never had an abortion but this man is frightening. Much too extreme and much too dangerous.

      February 9, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
  10. Scott P.

    "Santorum’s a family man."

    HORSE PUCKY. Really? Can ANY Republican be called a "Family Man"? They are ANTI-family. They want to do away with public education, end child hunger programs, cut back on after school activites, dumb-down American textbooks, and every single state where Republicans hold sway – those states are at the BOTTOM of the list for education, child healthcare, literacy, economics, and the highest in crime, domestic violence, and executions.

    SO HOW THE HELL DO REPUBLICANS THINK THEY ARE PRO FAMILY?

    February 9, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
    • beatnikam

      ok. good point. how about pro-RICH FAMILY? or rather pro-rich-ConservativeChristian-heteroparented Family?

      February 9, 2012 at 3:21 pm |
    • popseal

      Not all Republicans are pro-family. That's why we call them RINOs.

      February 9, 2012 at 3:23 pm |
  11. gin

    And if you like "man-boobs", he's got them! Just sayin....

    February 9, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
  12. Juxtsupose

    Obama would win 45 states against Santorum. Lost his senate seat re-election by a mile. We don't want sloppy seconds for president. We need a winner.

    February 9, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
  13. darntootin

    do they also love it when Santorum (google it) shoots out of his azz?

    February 9, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
  14. mark

    I do not want a presidential candidate who makes policy based on his own religious beliefs. His stance on gay marriage is outdated and wrong – like a candidate years ago who was against interracial marriages. I will NOT vote Santorum, and I will encourage everyone I know to vote against him as well.

    February 9, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
    • Juxtsupose

      Agreed, he hasn't been vetted yet because no one has had reason to care. With his time in the spot light, you will find that he would not be that great of a President.

      February 9, 2012 at 3:15 pm |
    • Joe from CT, not Lieberman

      Oh, I wouldn't be surprised if he is against interracial marriage, too. I also come from an old-school, second-generation Italian-American Catholic family and that was one thing about modern American Society that my father could never tolerate – mixed race marriages. I could not post what he used to say about both parties in this. Santorum has the same background, and he stayed more within the narrow confines of the ultra-conservative Archdiocese of Pittsburgh than I did with the more liberal Diocese of Albany. Even so, I have outgrown my father's beliefs. I do not believe that Rick has outgrown his.

      February 9, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
  15. Nicki

    As a former resident of PA, I have 100 reasons NOT to love Santorum. Corruption, hypocrisy in his views of abortion, fraud, and poor style are just several of them!

    February 9, 2012 at 3:11 pm |
  16. James

    This is awful journalism. WHat a joke of a piece. Santorum, if you listened to the debates and read between the lines, is a bigot. He's a religous nut job who will use the "because God wants it" line to justify doing whatever he wants. Him questioning PROVEN FACTS like evolution is not attractive, it makes him look naive and moronic, as much so if he were to question whether or not the Earth is round or revolves around the sun. He has no respect for other religions and is arrogant thinking he is right and has all the answers not to mention he has no business experience or true grasp of the economy which is what people collectively care most about.

    February 9, 2012 at 3:10 pm |
  17. newton

    great, hes experienced at pushing grandmas around and creating macaroni art for his kids at home. Add that to his medieval belief system and hes perfect presidential material. who needs ideas. please nominate him. obama will stroll right back into the white house if you do

    February 9, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
  18. J Richards

    Considering the number of votes, it would seem that not many conservatives even bothered to vote.

    February 9, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
  19. Alex

    He's a religious fanatic...too extreme to be president.

    February 9, 2012 at 3:07 pm |
  20. EdR

    They left out the most important reason of all to love him. That is if he wins the Republican nomination the re election of President Obama is a done deal. GO RICK!!!!

    February 9, 2012 at 3:07 pm |
    • JT

      Ain't that the truth. If it's anyone other than Romney then they might as well throw in the towel and wait another four years. Not that Romney is perfect but he's the least bats**t nutbag crazy Christian among them all.

      February 9, 2012 at 3:18 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.