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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. ldsmom02

    The only thing wrong with Santorum is he doesn't have the ability to understand the economy and work to fix it properly. That is why Romney, as boring as everyone thinks he is, is best suited to replace Obama.

    February 9, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
  2. Finster

    What a joke! What they don't know is that he home schooled his children in VA and billed his PA hometown school disctrict over $30,000 a year for 4 years until he got caught! Who can forget how this opportunist went to Florida and injected himself into the Terry Shivo thing! How horrible to have to deal with your wife and Santorum! He only believes that the government should step in when he and his like think its in their interest! Now he is complaining the the gov't shouldn't be able to tell the church what to do, but it is ok for them to tell the rest of us how we must live! He talks about how hard his father worked, check out his bio, never worked after college, staright into politics! Wait until he gets back to PA, we'll show you why we kicked him out! Oh yah, the real 10 reasons, Abortion, Abortion, Abortion, abortion, abortion, Get it!

    February 9, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
  3. Nick

    I realize conservative Christian ideals don't carry a lot of weight on CNN forums, but I think Santorum is the best presidential candidate we've had in a long time. I hope you'll consider his argument, and not just cast him off as a conservative loon. That kind of dismissive thinking is a big part of the reason for the party schism in Washington and all across America. You don't have to agree with someone to respect their opinion.

    February 9, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
    • ldsmom02

      I think it is great to want a true conservative to run for President, and I also think it is a good idea to make sure that the candidate you choose has the ability to do what needs to be done. If we have another 4 years of nobody doing anything because they are all fighting each other, where does that even get us?

      February 9, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
    • We're comin' for ya

      Nothing respectable about this jack wagon or his beliefs.

      February 9, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
    • LeRoy_Was_Here

      By your 'logic', we should respect the beliefs of flat-Earthers, and allow flat-Earth geography to be taught as an 'alternative' in public school geography and science classes.

      Thanks, but no thanks.

      February 9, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
  4. drp146

    Rick Santorum is a sanctimonious little prig who will never be President.

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

    Rick Santorum is a closet gay/abortionist.

    February 9, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
  6. We're comin' for ya

    If Santorum gets elected president all the althiests and agnostics are going to come out of the woodwork that have been hiding it for so long. Our eyes will turn red and we will grow fangs, if you believe in Jesus you will be afraid to come outside becuase the demons will get you. Santorum will start the next holy wars in america.

    February 9, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
    • LeRoy_Was_Here

      "Santorum would start the next holy wars in America."

      Well, wait. Rick would LIKE that.

      February 9, 2012 at 3:58 pm |
  7. bob

    Juxtsupose you say we cannot argue that this country was not built by a God fearing, religious people. You forgot the one most important part..............All this happened after the Europeans SLAUGHTERED and STOLE it from the NATIVE AMERICAN INDIANS!

    February 9, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
  8. sciencefan

    I remember when JFK ran and the evangelicals were terrified that the pope would run the country. Now, it seems, they would gladly welcome the pope. How times change!

    At a time when the US needs to protect its pre-eminent position as a leader in science and technology, Santorum would probably cut funding when supporting science and technology is an extremely important function of the federal governmjent, Think what that would do for unemployment! If you want in vitro fertilization, get it now – the Catholic Church forbids it. Ditto for birth control in any form. Ditto for gene therapy.

    The makers of coat hangers would be a major beneficiary! So would Canada – it would look mighty good to scientists. If you really want to see the US in decline, vote for Santorum.

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

      Absolutely. I have friends in Canada that will help me find a job there...better paying too!

      February 9, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
    • nah

      So your post consisted of what? Meaningless ad hominems, strawmen and false dichotomies?

      Okay.

      If a conservative said "Vote for Obama and we'll go back to the dark ages of socialism and tyranny. We'll all be standing in food lines, wearing size 7 shoes, and being executed for speaking out against the government." you'd laugh, wouldn't you?

      Ironic, eh?

      February 9, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
  9. Dave

    "Santorum isn’t afraid to challenge science, questioning the theory of evolution and dismissing global warming as “a hoax.”" So, all that means, is that in addition to being a hate monger, he's also more ignorant than Sarah Palin (didn't think that was even possible), and I'll bet he's gay to boot!

    BTW, I'm fairly intelligent, but I know I'm not the smartest guy on the planet. I expect my leaders in Congress to, at the very least, be smarter than I am. That's where the entire current GOP lineup fails and Obama succeeds.

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

      Rickj Sanatorium is a closet gay..

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

      I honestly wonder how many of our politicians truly do not believe in evolotion and global warming, and how many just say they don't so that they can get re-elected. I mean, come on, they are fairly well educated people, they have gone to college. Too bad the mass that is the voter scares them enough to deny facts.

      February 9, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
  10. delsa

    I like the guy but I don't think he has enough experience!

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

      Oh you mean like Obama did when he was voted in?

      February 9, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
  11. Dick Brandlon

    With the United States' educational system as well as infant mortality rate near the bottom of the most industrialized nations, all we need is a president who doesn't believe in evolution and thinks climate change is a hoax.
    For heaven's sake, get religion out of politics! Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's.

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

      dick: "For heaven's sake, get religion out of politics! Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's."

      Yeah! Religious people should have no say in how the country should be! Instead you should tell the country how the country should be!

      How ironic.

      February 9, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
    • wga3g54a35a3

      Nah: If religious people base their policy on 2000 year old mythology maybe that shouldn't have any place in our world today.

      February 9, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
    • Dave

      Right on!

      February 9, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
    • LC in CA

      Religion DOES NOT need to cloud politics with faith, belief, and other unsubstantiated non-evidential biases. Look at the Middle East if you want an idea of what religion and politics lead toward. Let's pick our leaders based on their rational thinking processes, not their religious biases. Catholic or not, I don't want a leader who thinks God should be the ultimate source of everything. With God on our side, we're like lemmings to the cliff.

      February 9, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
    • JoeSeattle

      But man-made global warming is a hoax (do some homework, man). And people's belief on creationism vs. evolution doesn't affect national policy, so I'm not real concerned with that.

      I think I'd be more concerned with Obama's religious beliefs, whatever they really are. All we know is that he sat in a church of hate for many years, beginning about the time of his political aspirations.

      February 9, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
    • LeRoy_Was_Here

      For JoeSeattle: A NASA press release just last week pointed out that NINE OF THE TEN WARMEST YEARS ON RECORD HAVE BEEN SINCE THE YEAR 2000. And the warmest year on record remains 1998. Meaning that the ten warmest years on record have occurred in the last fourteen years.

      Can you spot a trend, dude?

      February 9, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
  12. nah

    kyle: "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."

    First, everyone who supports a law or advocates for a cause is trying to "force" their beliefs onto others. Namely because they're trying to make their beliefs become law that must be followed.

    Second, whether something happens within the bedroom is irrelevant. Mur- der, ra- pe, mol- estation, etc. are not vindicated merely because they happen in the privacy of your home. Hence, "privacy" isn't the issue.

    Third, the issue is the proper extent of the state's power. And so in order to defeat Santorum's views on gay marriage (which, by the way, isn't relegated to the bedroom) you need to come up with a substantive argument that consist of more than just "stay out of my bedroom".

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

      How about this, ra.pe, murd.er, and mol.estation have something in common. These things are found immoral by any reasonable person regardless of religious or political affiliation. Not to mention that those things cause irreparable harm to the victim (death being irreparable for the murder one). Same-se.x marriage is not the same. For one reasonable people can have very varrying thoughts on whether that life-style is acceptable or not, and to varying degrees at times as well. Also that life-style does not cause irreparable harm because: 1) It is a consensual thing and 2) There is no victim (only the perception of victimization by some opponents.

      February 9, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
  13. fsmgroupie

    Santorum is not a family man. This whack-job will kill his own children if his god tells him to do so. How can you possibly be considered a family man if you are willing to murder your own children to please your god?

    February 9, 2012 at 3:32 pm |
    • delsa

      When did he ever say that?

      February 9, 2012 at 3:35 pm |
    • fsmgroupie

      to deny his god puts him in hell --just ask him

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

      And you know this how? I am evangelical with 8 kids. I would never hurt any of them, and I know my God would never ask me too. If you are going to make rash statements at least make them plausible.

      February 9, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
  14. Bill

    I found a similarity between myself and staunch Santorum supporters. We both want him to win the GOP nomination! I can't think of an easier way for Obama to win reelection. So, all you nut jobs that believe the earth is 6,000 years old and that people were on earth at the same time as dinosaurs I have one thing to say. Send Santorum all the money that you can!
    Do whatever you can to get him nominated. Geez, I can't believe how many nuts we have in this country.

    February 9, 2012 at 3:30 pm |
  15. Chris Hogan

    I take issue with the generalization of this article that people of faith support Rick Santorum. Actually, a loud small group of faithful-the anti-gay, anti-birth control group- supports him. In coming years his attacks on equality for gay and lesbians, his extreme views against birth control and women's health will come back to haunt him and the GOP who supports him. The history books will show Jim Crowe, George Wallace and Rick Santorum in the same chapter. You can support equality and be a Christian at the same time.

    February 9, 2012 at 3:27 pm |
    • Beth

      Yes. Thank you.

      February 9, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
  16. Jeremy

    Santorum is a hate monger; he belongs at the head of some backwards evangelical cult – not the leader of the free world.

    February 9, 2012 at 3:27 pm |
    • Senor Ed

      I think the position of Pope is already filled.

      February 9, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
  17. Hobgoblin11

    As much as I hate Barack Obama .. Id vote for him before some loony bird right wing Christian. Santorum will bring this country back to the dark ages.

    February 9, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
  18. Juxtsupose

    Literally people. You don't have to believe in God if you don't want to. That is your right. But you CANNOT argue that this country was not built by a God fearing, religious people. An atheistic (do whatever you feel like) culture is not something you build a society around, that is not the definition of real freedom. Founding fathers knew it, we don't, and we pay the price for it.

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

      Ever heard of Democracy?

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

      I totally agree

      February 9, 2012 at 3:32 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      @Juxtsupose

      Characterizing atheism as doing whatever you feel like shows a complete lack of knowledge about atheism. If anything Christianity and Catholicism promote that kind of thinking, as long as you repent and give to the church all will be forgiven right?

      February 9, 2012 at 3:35 pm |
    • 45hw4hqw45yaq3

      How have 1000s of years of religious violence and genocide not convinced you of the exact opposite?

      February 9, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
    • Hasancan Demirbas

      some of the founding fathers were atheist, and diest, they were smart enough to not fear god, and shape the country as they wished, you obviously have not read a single piece of history and talk out of your ass.

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

      hawaii: "Characterizing atheism as doing whatever you feel like shows a complete lack of knowledge about atheism."

      Characterizing atheism as "not" permitting you to do whatever you feel like shows a complete lack of knowledge about logic, atheism, and what it means to be "moral" or "good".

      In an atheist's universe there are no categorical moral laws. The only duty you have is to yourself and to do what brings you pleasure. Hence, if doing wrong brings you happiness (and you can get away with it), you have no reason "not" to do wrong. That is, so long as your conscience permits you to do it. But then again, considerations about your conscience only bear on the happiness the action will bring you, won't it?

      Please try thinking a little deeper next time.

      February 9, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
    • nah

      has: "some of the founding fathers were atheist, and diest, they were smart enough to not fear god, and shape the country as they wished, you obviously have not read a single piece of history and talk out of your ass."

      Lol. Talk about not knowing history.

      Jefferson was a purported "deist" in that he believed in a god, but not one of religion.

      Paine was a deist, the rest were specifically affiliated with Christian denominations (e.g., Washington, Adams, etc.).

      February 9, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
    • The Grapist

      Completely ignoring the fact that 75% of the "founding fathers" were either atheist or agnostic.

      February 9, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
    • rukiddingme

      wow, you seem to be so blinded by your religious beliefs that you don't even notice how insulting and wrong your comment is about this article. one needs to look no further than your chastising comment about atheism as mere drivel compared to your own religious beliefs to see the bigoted nature of religious zealots on display.

      February 9, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
    • Phil

      "The Government of the United States is in no sense founded on the Christian religion." John Adams 2nd POTUS

      February 9, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      @nah

      There is an evolutionary imperative for human beings to be moral and to not hurt others (to a certain extent). We are a social animal. We naturally gravitate into groups or communities for safety and to fulfill our desires for social interaction. Naturally we would want the community we live in to be as strong as possible. Doing acts that are immoral (or contary to the general consesus) would weaken not only the community but your place in the community. This means less safety and support from those around you, eventually ending in isolation or exile. Are you trying to imply that only theists are capable of moral thought?

      February 9, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
  19. Alex

    what about 100 reasons to dislike Santorum?

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

      You only need 90 more.

      February 9, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
  20. Senor Ed

    Santorum is a nuisance and would leave a mess to clean up.

    February 9, 2012 at 3:25 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.