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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. What's with the Armchair Scientists?

    I find it very interesting when supporters of modern science attack those who dare to question current scientific theories, hypotheses, or laws. Without questions, how would science ever be advanced? How many once-perceived scientific laws have been disproved throughout history? To criticize and mock people for questioning modern science is a direct attack on the future of science. Beware armchair scientists who aren't smart enough to know that they don't (and never will) know everything.

    February 9, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
    • Edith

      Has the Republican campaign really come to who is the biggest Jesus sycophant?

      February 9, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
    • Joe T.

      When your argument against science is simply "God" with no proof to back it up, that would be why we have a problem with his questioning science.

      February 9, 2012 at 4:42 pm |
    • What's with the Armchair Scientists?

      Joe T, I think you've missed the point of my comment. The point is that nothing is beyond questioning. Similar to the rights of individuals to question religion (be it Islam, Christianity, Judaism, etc.), individuals may also question modern science. In fact, it would be a disservice to the future of science to take modern science as undisputed fact. It should be expected that questions would arise regarding science, considering how much science has changed throughout history. One should not accept as absolute truth the scientific beliefs of an individual or a group, especially when such groups or individuals cannot agree amongst themselves, and have changed their beliefs over time.

      Finally, those questioning science or religion don't always have the answers, nor should they be expected to. They may question based on a belief or understanding, without being able to provide an alternative that is to everyone's satisfaction. People should expect to be questioned because nothing is beyond questioning; neither biblical fact nor scientific fact. It's how people respond to the questions that matter. Consider alternative viewpoints. Consider that what you perceive as fact will be questioned by others. Expect that it should be questioned, because without questions, how can we learn?

      February 9, 2012 at 5:17 pm |
    • wga3g54a35a3

      "They may question based on a belief or understanding, without being able to provide an alternative that is to everyone's satisfaction."

      That's irrational. How do you argue against evidence based on a feeling?

      February 9, 2012 at 5:20 pm |
    • sharoom

      Are you serious? Armchair scientists do not have any perspective at all because they do not go and do experiments. They do not collect data. They argue from what they feel is "common sense" without actually testing observations from the environment using variables and controls. Now, if the armchair scientist did go out and test out what they believe then shared what they found with everyone else, well, good job the armchair scientist is now just a regular scientist.

      February 9, 2012 at 5:47 pm |
    • What's with the Armchair Scientists?

      @wga3g54a35a3 - the phrase "belief or understanding" is certainly intended to convey more than "a feeling."

      February 9, 2012 at 5:51 pm |
  2. lysander

    So, most of the reasons to like this guy center around his clinging to outdated and archaic religious ideals that he wants to instead, use as law?

    Awesome. Replace Santorum with any number of religious zealots in the middle east and somehow, this article would be looked at as crazy.

    February 9, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
  3. Joe T.

    Okay i can Santorum being a mixture... but why does it have to be frothy?

    February 9, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
    • Joe T.

      I can see*

      February 9, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
  4. Alisha C

    Mitt has all the faith credentials that Rick has including personally serving for many years as a religious leader without pay to help people improve their personal and family lives and their relationship with Jesus Christ.

    Most Mormon's will vote for Romney because they know that former missionaries, Bishops and Stake Presidents, which Mitt has been all three are caring, trustworthy, hard working and empathetic. Mitt will do the right thing as best he can! He will not pursue something that will not be supported by voters and political leaders, that is a waste of time because those crusades fail. He may not sacrifice the majority's rights in favor of the morally correct, but he clearly knows right from wrong, we don't need to outlaw everything that could harm us. We don't need to impose Catholic, Evangelical or Mormon morals, but instead we all make our own choices between right and wrong then enjoy the happiness or pain of the consequences.

    Mitt's life of service and family sacrifices are a great model of charity. He has held positions that require personal worthiness and a dedicated heart. They give so many hours of service organizing, supporting, leading, counseling and caring for others in these roles as pastors. In addition to her important role of mother and wife in the Romney home, I know Ann Romney has served in leadership positions in their local LDS congregation as well. The Romneys want others to succeed and have served hundreds of hours each year as volunteers, counselors, and relief workers, to help other people make more of their lives, to succeed as families, parents, people. That is why the Mormons, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, will vote for Mitt, that and his strong problem solving credentials (Governor & SLC Olympics), excellence as a parent, as a husband, a solid BYU education, a Harvard MBA/JD, international experience, excellent debate skills and really good hair.

    February 9, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
  5. CuriuosGeorge

    Can i simply say "seperation of church and state". Where is it?

    February 9, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
  6. Bob

    Funny how Santorum's daughter comes up when Mr. Santorum needs sympathy or attention, but meanwhile he constantly denounces "Obamacare". If "Obamacare" wasn't around, a private insurance company would be able to drop their coverage for Santorum's daughter due to her genetic condition. Mr. Santorum (once he no longer receives the government-run health care package that all Congressman enjoy) would go bankrupt paying for her treatment without insurance. Before "Obamacare" many families had to go bankrupt to qualify for Medicaid if a family member had a genetic condition (like Santorum's daughter). The only other alternative was to follow the cry of many of Santorum's supporters regarding the people who can't get insurance- "Let them die!".

    February 9, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
    • jarnds

      I recently talked to a doctor who has practiced for decades. He really cares for people and gives of his time and energy to help people. His wife is also very involved with helping women in desperate need. Even though he is this kind of a compassionate Dr., he told me 2 days ago that Obamacare is going to be an absolute disaster because it gives all of the power to the hospitals, rather than to the doctors, but without tort reform, the doctors will still be saddled with all the liability – he said that this will run many good doctors out of the system leaving the care to the Physicians Assistants who have about 5% of the knowledge that a Doctor has. He was going to practice for about 5 more years, but unless something changes, he said that he will not put up with the new rules – it is way to risky. One last thing – he said that the campaign promise was that you would be able to choose your own doctors, just as before – to quote him, he said "that is a lie from the pit of hell". I figure he knows better than most of us the reality of this situation. Very sad.

      February 9, 2012 at 4:54 pm |
  7. John

    So after reading this, it should six reasons to hate Santorum and four reasons to just not care.

    February 9, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
  8. scott

    I agree. Bigotry is definitely one reason to love him.

    February 9, 2012 at 4:29 pm |
    • Vanna

      His narrative as the church as victim is hilarious. Religious folk eat that up like the body of Christ.

      February 9, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
  9. kaos

    santorum
    dot
    com

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

      or just Google "santorum". You'll get the correct information.

      February 9, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
  10. ipa

    I lol'd at the headline on the main page... "10 Reasons to love Santorum".. sick... lol

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

      I can't even think of ONE reason to like either versions of Santorum.

      February 9, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
  11. Dixie AZ

    Mr. Self rightious and his bride. Copies of the Adams Family.

    February 9, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
  12. Matt

    How inconvenient it must be for evangelical Christians to live in a world where reality is at odds with their worldview.

    February 9, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
    • scott

      A better way of putting it might be: How inconvenient it must be for evangelical christians to have to live in a world with opinions different from their own.

      February 9, 2012 at 4:30 pm |
  13. micspa

    Wow! These comments are just oozing tolerance. So much for the "tolerant" left.

    February 9, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      I'll be tolerant of his thoughts and beliefs, up to the point that he wants to legislate them to everyone in the country no matter their thoughts and beliefs. OH WAIT he already does want to.

      February 9, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
    • Joe T.

      Yes, it is oozing like so much Santorum...

      February 9, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
    • scott

      Do you think tolerance means forcing others by law to follow your beliefs? See, calling the guy out for his bigotry is not being intolerant. It's being honest. We're not saying he must think differently, just that the way he thinks stinks of bigotry.

      February 9, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
    • blinky

      I get your point, micspa, but I can't think of one single time I've seen Santorum where he's displayed tolerance. What about the person who told Santorum that Obama's a Muslim and anti-American for it? The decent thing for Santorum would have been to follow McCain's lead and correct the person on their ignorance on both counts. But Santorum let the hate slide, instead. He said Obama can take care of himself, which is true, but the ethical action would have been for Santorum to SPEAK UP there and then and say he didn't agree with the person calling Obama Muslim and anti-American. Santorum should have also reminded that person that plenty of Muslims serve in the U.S. Armed Forces.

      February 9, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
  14. Umptysquat

    If you really want to know about him go to his website

    santorum dot com

    February 9, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
    • Joe T.

      Sure thing... OH DEAR GOD

      February 9, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
  15. Ben

    This is great news for Democrats! Make him the candidate and Obama will surely win! Right on!

    February 9, 2012 at 4:25 pm |
  16. blinky

    The article makes him sound less lovable, not more, and scarier than ever. The Catholic Church, which he belongs to, accepts evolution, and that puts Santorum, who disputes evolution, back in the 19th century. He homeschooled all his 7 kids. Why not put them in a real-world environment, where they'll learn to tolerate, respect and admire differences in others? Oh, wait, I answered my own question.

    February 9, 2012 at 4:25 pm |
  17. naypeau

    How about some reasons to dislike him, those running against him & their supporters.
    Nevada .....
    The door begins to squeak though it has opened only a crack.
    A tiny shaft of light enters into the darkness.
    Thus begins the newest episode of "INNER SANCTORUM."
    BaBummm BaBummm
    Rick is excited, kind of like an Alter Boy the first time a Catholic Priest takes a liking to him.
    Where will it lead?
    Along the Yellow Brick Primary Road where he must continue to fight off the challenges of the mean, the spiteful, the dishonest bad people ..... or ..... will the door suddenly SLAM SHUT in his face again?
    Does God know the answer?
    Many Catholics seem to think so!
    The same Catholics who support a church that condoned child molestation for centuries.
    The same Catholics who took their lawsuit money & now are able to finance the republican Catholic of the month.
    What does the future hold?
    Tune in next week (or tomorrow) for another episode of "INNER SANCTORUM."

    February 9, 2012 at 4:25 pm |
    • Joe T.

      Okay

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

    Aw, CNN. Come on. This article has zero substance or utility. The guy's hateful and acts uneducated (despite his scholarly credentials). There are more intelligent things out there for you to publish, I'm entirely certain.

    February 9, 2012 at 4:25 pm |
  19. CoJo

    Am I too strong here when I say "puritanism" = "conservatives"? I remember my history enough to remember the horror days of puritanism.

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

      what I mean is by the definition of puritanism = the principles and practices of a movement within 16th-century Anglicanism, demanding reforms in doctrine, polity, and worship, and greater strictness in religious discipline,

      February 9, 2012 at 4:25 pm |
  20. Scargosun

    This is a horrible individual that would like to see all women married to men, subservient and barefoot and pregnant. He has no place in a civilized society. We are supposed to evolve from cavemen, not go back to those ways. If he wants to believe in Christianity, great. We don't all have to in this country. On of the principles it was founded was on freedom of religion. If you have twisted freedom of religion in some way to make it only about what YOU believe in, you are unAmerican as far as I am concerned. What you are projecting is the opposite of freedom of religion. The Founding Fathers also believed in the separation of church and state, no matter what their own PERSONAL beliefs were. If you really believe they were great men, stop twisting their ideals into some sort of ego trip for yourself and your PERSONAL ideals.

    February 9, 2012 at 4:20 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.