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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. bob martin

    i don't beleive in taking dead people home from the hospital or anywhere. no matter how young. wonder if it's still in the house. THIS WHAT RELIGEON DOES TO PEOPLE. makes them stupid.

    February 9, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
    • mb2010a

      Uh-oh, busted...

      February 9, 2012 at 4:19 pm |
    • Joe T.

      He keeps it on the mantle next to his crucifix.

      February 9, 2012 at 4:23 pm |
    • Schottzz

      Your comment is ignorant. It was how he and his family chose to grieve; it may not be what all of us do but can't knock him for his family's personal decision. I pray I never have to make that decision.

      February 9, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
  2. chedar

    The article forget to mention that there is an 11th reason why the religious zealot will love Santorum.,.Santorum will set a mandate that there is no other alternative with your spouse except the missionary position. Other than the missionary position, anyone who disobey will be prosecuted with the fullest extend of the law

    February 9, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
  3. M W B

    I can't agree with not even one of these reasons. I only think they are 10 reasons to really hate the guy.. Imagine him as our president. It would be like living under a dictatorship and a living hell for anyone who had half a brain.

    February 9, 2012 at 4:16 pm |
    • Schottzz

      You're living in a dictatorship now. You're comments are just ignorant.

      February 9, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
  4. Pee Tardy Patriot

    I don't know. I heard that Romney and Newt liked littler little government. Tough choice. Baby Jesus will give me a sign and show me the way eventually. I like his hair. Very impressive.

    February 9, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
  5. bill

    You forgot to add deficit spending to his beliefs.

    February 9, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
  6. Joe T.

    I love when people try to debunk evolution when they say "It's called a theory, not fact." Clearly, they've never taken a science class in school and learned what the scientific method is.

    February 9, 2012 at 4:13 pm |
    • mb2010a

      The Bible is also just a theory...

      February 9, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
    • Joe T.

      There is also something called gravitational theory.

      February 9, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
    • Schottzz

      So why hasn't anything evolved over time? I believe in the Big Bang theory; God said "Bang." Scientists say matter came together, spun in a clockwise motion, than boom.....Has anything ever been put to order in an explosion? Scientists also have a Law of Thermodynamics that says "matter cannon be created or destroyed. So where did the matter come from? Also, why do the planets spin one way and the moons spin another? And how are tilted 21 1/2 degrees on the axis? If we're tilted off one half a degree, the earth floods. I'm sorry, this is why the "Science class" leaves me with more questions than answers.

      February 9, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
  7. BinMesa Former catholic

    I do not want to go back to the 14th century. Would NEVER vote for this guy.

    February 9, 2012 at 4:13 pm |
  8. rizzo

    11: Santorum is an idiot, and they like idiots. He was an idiot when he was the Senator from my state and he's still an idiot to this day. By all means though, please nominate him so Obama can eat him alive.

    February 9, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
  9. akahn90

    And the number 1 reason is Sanitarium wants the the US to become the next religious cult country where the citizens have no rights under the first ever US Cult Leader President. And all his little brainwashed minions love that fact because after all, they can't really think for themselves and need a cult leader like Sanitarium to think for them...

    February 9, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
  10. Tim

    Religion is such a joke.

    February 9, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
    • mb2010a

      And so is Santorum...the convention will laugh him off the stage.

      February 9, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
  11. purelypolitics

    Reblogged this on purelypolitics and commented:
    I'm sorry. I cannot support Santorum AT ALL! What does religion have to do with fixing the economy? What does religion have to do with people getting jobs? What does religion have to do with anything political? Your religion can inform your political position but it CANNOT be your politics.

    February 9, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
  12. J. Scott

    What does it mean to say someone "isn't afraid to challenge science"? It's like praising a man for being unafraid to challenge a brick wall with his face.

    February 9, 2012 at 4:11 pm |
    • Candace

      This made me chuckle.

      February 9, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
  13. EdR

    Not afraid to stand up to science? Now there's a real reason to love a guy. He stands up to intelligent scientific thought with self righteous ignorance. Whats not to like about that?

    February 9, 2012 at 4:10 pm |
  14. Paimon

    Not a fan of Rick Santorum. All I have seen is a lack of tolerance to accept others who do not share the same belief system he has.

    February 9, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
  15. Mike

    I have been looking for Santorum's tax release on-line and can not find them anywhere. Did he release them last weekend as promised?

    February 9, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
    • mb2010a

      No, he has not done so yet...

      February 9, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
  16. Robert - Atlanta

    Sound more like ten really scary reasons to HATE him!

    February 9, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
    • Bob

      I gotta agree with you there.

      February 9, 2012 at 4:13 pm |
    • Candace

      For sure.

      February 9, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
  17. Grandma

    The founding fathers intended the United States to be a Christian nation. Atheists aren't welcome.

    February 9, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
    • LIsaM

      You're a very ignorant and intolerant person, grandma.

      February 9, 2012 at 4:07 pm |
    • fsmgroupie

      is that why they murdered all the natives

      February 9, 2012 at 4:07 pm |
    • Thom

      You need to go back and read your history books again. FauxNews omitted some stuff.

      February 9, 2012 at 4:08 pm |
    • mb2010a

      Actually, they intended for the exact opposite...they wanted the government to be non-secular. Most of the founding fathers were not Christians. They were Diest...

      February 9, 2012 at 4:10 pm |
    • F.E.S.

      Grandma, that statement is so not true.

      February 9, 2012 at 4:10 pm |
    • Bum Scoobies

      As reported on the Nazi News... so it MUST be true....

      February 9, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
    • Mike

      Interesting.

      I am for freedom of religion, & against all maneuvres to bring about a legal ascendancy of one sect over another.
      - Thomas Jefferson

      February 9, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
    • Chirpin

      I dislike the grandma and ricky santorum

      February 9, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
    • BinMesa Former catholic

      granma – your narrow minded christian views are the reason I would never vote for the person you support.

      February 9, 2012 at 4:20 pm |
    • don in albuquerque

      Go on and admit it Grandma. You really got off on Salem.

      February 9, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
    • Grampa

      Apologies everyone, Grandma's gone senial in her old age, and as a result constantly forgets things such as the facts that prove this statement wrong on a day to day basis, please ignore her and carry on with your lives.

      February 9, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
  18. paintpaintpaint

    Well, as a Catholic, Rick Santorum doesn't impress me or speak for me. I remember when abortion was illegal. Only Republican girls could get them (through their Dad's golf partner who was a doctor – I am not lying here). So poor, or Democrat girls had their babies and lived in shame – looked down upon by those holier-than-thou Republicans. I know all about him, and please, give me a President that thinks about the needs of all the people, not just the right wing groups of any religion.

    February 9, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
    • Bob

      have to agree Paint, if you are for less government start by getting them out of my personal business.
      Remember in the old days when republicans were fiscally conservetive more than socially

      February 9, 2012 at 4:16 pm |
  19. Chris

    Absolutely!

    He's on a roll now, and he won't stop until the entire nation is covered in Santorum!

    February 9, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
    • ManWithThe1000PoundBrain

      a frothy lube.

      February 9, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
  20. TonyB

    As a Catholic, Rick Santorum should understand the Church's position on evolution and science. The Church has stated in 2009 that Darwin's theory of evolution is compatible with Christianity. The Church also believes that science and Christianity cannot be in opposition. If God is Truth and science is a search for the truth, then science and God must be compatible. The Church has learned a lot in the 500 years since Galileo.

    February 9, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
    • Shalla

      Unfortunately, Santorum is Old School Catholic. None of this newfangled touchy feely Catholicism for him.

      February 9, 2012 at 4:07 pm |
    • Juan

      This

      February 9, 2012 at 4:11 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      In other words Rick enjoys being an exclusionary bigot way to much.

      February 9, 2012 at 4:11 pm |
    • Johnny L

      Science searches for the truth, but science is not God. I do not think that science has any real way to "prove" what happened 4 billion, 1 million or even 1 thousand years ago, because they cannot use the scientific method to test it. You simply cannot put what happened so long ago to a true scientific test, and you certainly can't recreate the conditions because you can't know what the conditions were. An you can't wait a thousand, a billion years to see if things come out like you think they will. While the leading scientists would have us believe that all scientists accept evolution, it is not true. Many scientists have doubts about many of its claims. However, if they are vocal about them, they are labeled as anti-intellectual, blackballed, can't get published, can't get grants, etc. The appearance is that all the ducks are in line, but it is simply not true. Thinking people don't doubt evolution because their church is against it, they do because of both lack of evidence in favor of evolution, and evidence to the contrary. Like the evolutionist authority on PBS who said it is possible for something to appear out of nothing, with "nothing" being a "place" void of space, time, or any building blocks of any kind. That is the kind of "faith" you have to have to believe evolution as it is usually presented.

      February 9, 2012 at 4:20 pm |
    • F.E.S.

      No offense, TonyB, but if the church thinks Christianity is compatible with Science, they've about 500-1000 more years of learning to go. I've not seen one ounce of proof that supports that claim of compatibility.

      February 9, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
    • Schottzz

      I believe evolution is a religion. You have to believe it is true and it takes faith to believe it is true.

      February 9, 2012 at 4:48 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.