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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. Patrick

    This country was founded on freedom of Religion People!! that applies to everyone including Rick Santorum. He is not going to force the entire country to follow only one religion because that would be communism. I swear some people are just stupid

    February 9, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
    • sam

      So when he says stuff about contraception and abortion becoming illegal under his watch, because it follows his faith...that's doesn't count? Just checking.

      February 9, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
    • Elliot

      He would like to and that is the problem.

      February 9, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
  2. Al

    Gee – makes Rick perry look smart!

    February 9, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
  3. Peter Grenader

    Yes, just what we need... a leader of the FREE world, and I need to emphasize FREE ,who supports the removal of women's reproductive health right's, thinks some guy pulled his rib out of himself to create them and calls the countless cases of evidence and the testimony of 98% of the scientists qualified to gage global warming a hoax. Yes, folks, this is EXACTLY who we need at the helm- the poster boy for the right wing extremists talking points.

    February 9, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
  4. Pope John XXIII

    I'd never vote for Little Ricky. Never Never Never. The man is a clear and present danger to democracy and freedom.

    February 9, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
  5. Chirpin

    I cant take the jesus talk... separation of church and state anyone ever hear of it...

    February 9, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
  6. kayray

    MN-you cannot force belief on people.

    February 9, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
  7. Atheism is NOT healthy for our children and living things.....

    Reasons why Atheism is TERRIBLE!

    * Atheism makes you stupid, ignorant & blind.
    * Atheism won't take you to kingdom of heaven and paradise.
    * Atheism making you agree with Stalin, Mao & other terrible massmurder leaders.
    * No traditional family lifestyle, boring and feeling 'outsider'
    * Atheist try to convert people over internet because they feel stupid outside their home.
    * Atheists do not really exist, they just pretend that they don't believe in God and argue with religious people.
    * Atheists have had terrible life experience, not being loved and terrible childhood.
    * Most Atheists are uneducated... No Atheists could run to the white house!
    * Atheism brought upon the French Revolution, one of the most evil events of all of history.
    * Atheism cannot explain the origins of the universe, therefore God exists.
    * All atheists believe in evolution, which means they don't believe in morality and think we should all act like animals.
    * The Bible says atheism is wrong, and the Bible is always right (see: Genesis 1:1, Psalms 14:1, Psalms 19:1, Romans 1:19-20)
    * Atheism have no holidays, no culture, no nothing. Waste of living in this planet...

    February 9, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
    • kayray

      Actually studies have shown that atheists are often more intelligent than believers. There's a link between fundamentalism and low IQ.

      February 9, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
    • alcoholiday

      You are so lost and confused by the world I can't even begin explaining it to you. You've missed a lot in life.

      February 9, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
    • Shalla

      I have trouble taking any argument seriously that looks like it was written by an eight-year-old. Is subject-verb agreement really that hard? For the record, if people think you have an IQ of less than 70, they generally are not going to give much weight to your ideas. That's why writing with good grammar is important when you want people to focus on the ideas rather than get distracted by the mistakes (and judge you for them).

      February 9, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
    • Bob

      Hey, didn't I see you on the corner of hollywood and la cienega waiving your "THE END IS NEAR" sign

      February 9, 2012 at 5:07 pm |
  8. M1sf1ts

    I'll vote for Santorum before I vote for Romney or Newt.

    February 9, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
  9. Pamela

    I believe in Jesus and I am a Christian, but I'm voting for Ron Paul. Thank you gentleman, like Dr. James Dobson, who presume to have meetings in Texas so you can tell all the rest of us Christians how we should vote, but I can think and choose and believe in who I think is right. Rick Santorium makes my skin crawl.

    February 9, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
    • M1sf1ts

      Paul has a lot of good ideas, but his Foreign Policy is a HUGE mistake.

      February 9, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
  10. Patrick

    Most are also reasons why he's not fit to lead.

    February 9, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
    • alcoholiday

      Reasons 5 & 6 seem valid

      February 9, 2012 at 4:08 pm |
  11. Greg Morgan

    It;s pretty hard to respect someone who complains about intrusive government while trying to use the power of government to force the rest of us to comply with his personal religious strictures.

    February 9, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
  12. MedullaPancreas

    An election troll sent by the kool-aid drinking globalist establishment to help steal Paul votes and divvy them between three worthless candidates via black box vote-counting. And he's starting to believe his own hype. He believes he's actually popular and people other than bigoted religiosos are voting for him. What a troll. What's NOT to dislike about Santorum?

    February 9, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
  13. Atheism is NOT healthy for our children and living things...

    Reasons why Atheism is TERRIBLE!

    * Atheism makes you stupid, ignorant & blind.
    * Atheism won't take you to kingdom of heaven and paradise.
    * Atheism making you agree with Stalin, Mao & other terrible massmurder leaders.
    * No traditional family lifestyle, boring and feeling 'outsider'
    * Atheist try to convert people over internet because they feel stupid outside their home.
    * Atheists do not really exist, they just pretend that they don't believe in God.
    * Atheism brought upon the French Revolution, one of the most evil events of all of history.
    * Atheism cannot explain the origins of the universe, therefore God exists.
    * All atheists believe in evolution, which means they don't believe in morality and think we should all act like animals.
    * The Bible says atheism is wrong, and the Bible is always right (see: Genesis 1:1, Psalms 14:1, Psalms 19:1, Romans 1:19-20)
    * Atheism have no holidays, no culture, no nothing. Waste of living in this planet...

    February 9, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
    • nah

      Aww, a troll. How cute 🙂

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

      ....... Atheism cannot explain the origins of the universe, therefore God exists........

      AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH

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

      patrick: "Atheism cannot explain the origins of the universe, therefore God exists........"

      If the universe needs an origin, then there must be an originator that is not a part of the universe. Hence, if the universe requires a non-material cause, there's your god.

      February 9, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
    • LeRoy_Was_Here

      The Bible is always right?!?

      So, you apparently believe the value of pi is 3, right? [Book of Kings, VII, verse 23]

      HA HA HA! Bridges would fall down and buildings would collapse if architects were using a value of pi equal to 3!

      But that won't stop you from wallowing in your ignorance! You'd overturn all of mathematics, as well as all of science!

      February 9, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
    • Kevin

      Living your life by your interpretation of a 2,000 year old collection of myths and parables is not healthy for your children and every other living thing.

      February 9, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
    • carsosi

      In other words, your beliefs of the Bible trump what Atheist do not believe? Really? They do not believe in what you are spewing you ignorant tool. They have come to realize that all of this religious BS that is being forced down everyone else throat is factual over their beliefs (even Jews, Muslims, Hindus, etc.)
      Get real and get a clue. Religion is not healthy since it teaches others to hate.

      February 9, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
    • carbonboy

      This is by far the largest collection of stupidity that I have ever seen.

      February 9, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
    • Will

      Oh this is hilarious. Every single one of this points isn't unprovable and clearly pointedly ignoring known facts. Explain, where is the proof of an afterlife? I believe there is one, but there isn't a shred of evidence.

      February 9, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
    • Joe T.

      Well you've convinced me.

      I am now a firm believer in God.

      Praise be to Jesus or Buddha or whatever.

      February 9, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
  14. Chuck

    In other words, he is brain dead.

    February 9, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
  15. 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?

    That's not a proof for a god or for the fact that morality exists; it's an argument against your absurd belief that there is some binding morality in an atheist's universe.

    Please try thinking a little harder about the issue next time.

    February 9, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
    • Andrew

      atheism
      (noun)
      The doctrine or belief that there is no God.
      -Random House Dictionary

      February 9, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
    • Andrew

      Now tell me where it says atheism is incompatible with morals? Funny how it doesn't...this is awkward...

      February 9, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
    • LeRoy_Was_Here

      Morality is itself a product of evolution, as nearly all evolutionary biologists have come to realize.

      February 9, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
    • Elliot

      If I steal your sandwitch becuse I'm hungry you will hate me and make my life difficult. If I share my sandwitch with you, you will be happy and make my life easier. Wow, see how that works...no god needed.

      February 9, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
    • A Reasonable Word

      Ok, I couldn't just let this one go by. Atheism has absolutely nothing to do with morality or lack thereof, this is a strawman argument. It means "lack of theology" only and no more. It is the mistaken assumption that morality does and can only come from a theology that is the illogical opinion. We, as humans, evolved (yep, what the article says he rails against) morality because we're social animals and would not be able to live togther if we "did anything we wanted" as your post suggests.

      February 9, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
  16. Wait a second...

    Wait, I'm confused... Did they get their articles mixed up? I thought this was supposed to be a list of reasons to LIKE Santorum. Not one of the points listed is a reason to like this candidate. Certainly none of these makes him qualified to be president of the country. President of the PTA? Maybe.

    February 9, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
    • Diane

      and how does all this make me want to vote for him I have other pressing issues not these

      February 9, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
  17. Damn Liberal

    Best part of this list is that it's also the top 10 reasons to be terrified of Rick Santorum. God help us all.

    February 9, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
  18. Sean

    Funny I'd put this as 10 reasons to NOT vote for Santorum.

    February 9, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
  19. Rang

    It's funny the article says these are things to love him for yet almost all of them show what an idiot the guy is. Keep bashing gays and challenging science Rick – that's exactly what will fix our country

    February 9, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
    • LeRoy_Was_Here

      Rick needs a massive high-voltage Sputnik shock upside his head.

      February 9, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
  20. TampaMike

    All the other stuff about Santorum (family man, Catholic, etc.) does not bother me. It's number 10 that scares me away. Can anybody tell me why he is no longer a Senator in PA?

    February 9, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
    • sam

      Corruption. It's public record; you should be able to do a search for it.

      February 9, 2012 at 3:54 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.