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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. tim

    i love God but please leaven him out of politics santorum.

    February 9, 2012 at 4:47 pm |
  2. AltruXeno

    Wow! As an independent that is on the fence between voting Republican and not voting at all I have to say that you just pushed me over to the not voting side if Santorum gets it. A Republican will get Republican votes. Its people like me that you need to win over and statements like: "Santorum isn’t afraid to challenge science" just isn't going to win you those votes. Listen, you can refute evolution and global warming all you want but I would choose much better words. Science is defined as: "a branch of knowledge or study dealing with a body of FACTS or TRUTHS systematically arranged and showing the operation of general laws". I'm not saying evolution or global warming are facts. I'm saying that having a candidate that isn't afraid to challenge science (facts and truth) isn't a candidate I'm willing to vote for.

    February 9, 2012 at 4:46 pm |
    • sarahfalin

      Actually evolution is a fact...at least the fact that "the frequency of alleles in a population change over time".

      February 9, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
  3. Roman Darien

    Praying in public shows a lack of class! The Savior also cautioned against that! Noboby who's a ded ringer for Jerry Seinfeld looking like he's about to cry can whup Obama! This Nation needs a rich person to lead-someone rich knows how to actually get this ox out of the mire! I wonder WHO that could be? Think about it. It'll come to you.

    February 9, 2012 at 4:45 pm |
    • sarahfalin

      Tom Cruise?

      February 9, 2012 at 4:49 pm |
    • The MagusNYC.

      Mayor Bloomberg, but keep him out of education business.

      February 9, 2012 at 5:08 pm |
  4. Cielo

    Actually these are ten reasons to FEAR Santorum turning our country into a christian taliban! Gee as a lesbian Wiccan, I can see myself getting burned at the stake by Santorum's followers' while he approves and writes legislation to continue it world-wide!

    February 9, 2012 at 4:44 pm |
    • sarahfalin

      I have the same fears as an Evolutionary Biologist and Atheist.

      Who by the way loves this country.

      February 9, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
    • agathokles

      To me, the most frightening thing is his anti-science stance: Not believing in evolution??? How can I respect a President who is so backward?

      February 9, 2012 at 4:49 pm |
    • Saby

      fear monger

      February 9, 2012 at 4:58 pm |
  5. Brian

    There's no way I can endorse anyone as president who believes in the bible. There's really no place in the 21st century to continue reinforcing the primative beliefs of Bronze age society. Demons included. Your position is invalidated because the proof source you rely on, indeeed what you've based the entirety of your existence on is beyond words flawed. How can you trust a book whose opening chapters speak of talking snakes, condones generational incest, and the annihilation of all who stood in the way of the Israeli land grab?

    February 9, 2012 at 4:44 pm |
    • agathokles

      We probably agree in our fears of Santorum. However, I have to point out that there are different levels of belief in the Bible. For example, I "believe" it speaks "truth," but not "fact." Genesis, for example, is allegory. It's not meant to be a history lesson. So, I would edit your remarks to point out the folly of *literal* interpretation of the Bible.

      February 9, 2012 at 4:52 pm |
    • The MagusNYC.

      Truths in the Bible may be stated in a variety of ways. As a book, I understand that it stands as highly validated, for example, if you don't accept the claims concerning Jesus, you might as well throw out virtually all history and persons before the middle ages as fantasies. Inconsistencies represent many authors and edits, of course, and so much is metaphorical. Reject what it says, but not what it is.

      February 9, 2012 at 5:13 pm |
  6. R Wolf

    The man is a zealot. There is no room for him in mainstream America. Just because these are his narrow minded
    beliefs, why should he be able to shove said beliefs down our throats? This is a democracy not a convent. I don't
    even think the Church is as rigid as this man.

    February 9, 2012 at 4:44 pm |
    • cwhoov

      why is it that if Christians express their opinion its narrow minded and shoving our ideas in other peoples faces but if others express their beliefs it is not narrow minded

      February 9, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
  7. She needs to run for president....

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6UMP3AK5jwo&w=640&h=360]

    February 9, 2012 at 4:44 pm |
    • bighulawood

      why? She's already the Queen of Crazy.

      February 9, 2012 at 4:50 pm |
  8. plb618

    He's also the least likely to beat Obama because his rampant bigotry will motivate the younger crowd to get out and vote.

    February 9, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
  9. Polemos

    This is a welcome gesture from CNN. It wasn't necessary to run an article about why we should "love" Rick Santorum, but it's a nice change to see the news company making an effort to introduce a GOP candidate in a way that's not shaded by bias or indignant asides. I've watched many speeches, town hall events, and debates featuring Mr. Santorum and have really come to appreciate the man's honesty and genuine interest in rebuilding the family, America's (and indeed, any society's) most fundamental building block.

    February 9, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
  10. The MagusNYC.

    Simply put, some Christians are aware that the Mormon faith considers them apostates; that Mormonism replaces a Christianity that went astray. Mormon reference to Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have nothing to do with the Christian concepts. Unfortunately, some Christians are deceived by the equivocation, for example, when Romney says "Jesus is my savior," he does not mean what Christians mean by this, there being many other conditions for salvation within the Mormon organization.

    February 9, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
    • The MagusNYC.

      Nevertheless, my rural MN Lutheran sister will vote for anyone, Catholic or Mormon, who will support both anti-choice and capital punishment, the GOP having a lock on those issues.

      February 9, 2012 at 4:49 pm |
    • The MagusNYC.

      And Santorum is a model good, consistent human being, family man, community server, who looks and talks like the Reverend Joel Osteen! (-&
      But at a time when conservatives value less government intereference in our lives, Santorum appears to be on a crusade to impose his religious beliefs on us all.

      February 9, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
  11. lee trumbull

    who is kidding who, the only one who Obama won't rip apart in the presidential debates is Ginrich. Santorum don't stand a snowballs chance in hell!

    February 9, 2012 at 4:42 pm |
  12. Shirley

    Westboro Baptist Church needs to be U.S. official religion 😀

    February 9, 2012 at 4:41 pm |
  13. Diane

    ...I don't want a president whose allegiance is to "some guy" in Rome. (sorry, Catholics, but that's all the pope is to the rest of us.).

    February 9, 2012 at 4:40 pm |
    • Arthur K

      Wasn't this settled with Kennedy?

      February 9, 2012 at 4:45 pm |
    • The MagusNYC.

      I don't know the range of Catholic Pope dogmas that might affect a president; even less sure concerning the range of the Mormon apostles who also supposedly have direct instructions from God. How would a loyal president handle that? Kennedy could dismiss this readily, but not sure about Romney.

      February 9, 2012 at 4:58 pm |
  14. CoJo

    we all know, there are extremists in all religions. The challenge is how to filter out their noise to get to the real people for leadership.

    February 9, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
    • cwhoov

      That includes the religion of atheism.

      February 9, 2012 at 4:54 pm |
  15. Cor

    Sounds like the whole church of satan took turns posting their ignorance. Of course all of the idiots of America are not going to like Santrorum because his beliefs are not the same as theirs. Santorum is what this country needs and I will support him all the way.

    February 9, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
    • Starrface

      Your an idiot!

      February 9, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
    • CoJo

      so you don't believe in freedom of religion choice? Everyone MUST be a Catholic and follow its ways. Do I understand your position?

      February 9, 2012 at 4:40 pm |
    • Joe T.

      @starrface you make a very good argument but I feel your argument would hold a bit more weight if you used "you're" properly.

      Nobody is against Santorum because he has a faith. They are against Santorum because he wants to have that faith be the law of the land.

      February 9, 2012 at 4:46 pm |
    • tom

      you cray Cor...you cray...

      February 9, 2012 at 4:47 pm |
    • The MagusNYC.

      My Lutheran sister will join with you Cor, while rejecting the other faiths, she is fully supportive of imposing her and their values on the rest of us.

      February 9, 2012 at 5:01 pm |
  16. Diane

    He would legislate his religious beliefs on the rest of us. I do NOT share his beliefs and I should not be forced to live his beliefs.

    February 9, 2012 at 4:36 pm |
  17. judie

    I am a Catholic and this guy scares the daylights out of me. If you all will remember the Inquistion, either you went along with the Catholic Church or got burned at the stake, no room for reasonable or educated thinking. What's really scary is that he wants to legislate morality, his way or the highway. The religious right is frightening, they are like the Pharasees who Jesus always used as the bad example....

    February 9, 2012 at 4:36 pm |
    • plb618

      Good for you! I respect your beliefs and you should be completely free to practice them, but I agree that our government should not get involved in religion.

      February 9, 2012 at 4:46 pm |
    • Maecb

      I was raised Catholic too.... My biggest question lately with all these religious and moral issues being brought up is: Whatever happened to separation of Church and State?

      February 9, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
    • AAAAA

      And the sneaky liberal left isnt scary...??? Wow...they control the media, everything you read and watch

      February 9, 2012 at 4:49 pm |
    • blinky

      Thank you very much for your thoughtful post, judie. I agree with you. A lot of people get the wrong idea that all Catholics automatically support Santorum, but in fact there is plenty of reason to separate many of Santorum's stances from those of other Catholics, and plenty of reasons to separate church from state.

      February 9, 2012 at 4:54 pm |
    • AAAAA

      I am a catholic and a practicing one at that...but we aren't the most devoted or loyal...we kind of are embarrasing when compared to other religions....

      I mean they recently had a poll and ask a very large sample of people if they really believed in what their religion preached and whether they felt that if more people practiced and lived by their religion that the world would be a better place...the result alarming: 90%+ in all religions (judaism, baptism, muslim, buddhism, protestant, christianity, mormon, etc)...all said yes and they were proud of it....Catholics??????....55%....55%????

      Embarrasing....

      February 9, 2012 at 5:00 pm |
  18. procchi

    I live in Pennsylvania, the epitome of a "swing state," and Rick Santorum was roundly rejected from office because we wanted a Senator and not a religious leader. If he wants to represent the Catholic Church, he should become a deacon. However, in a multicultural society in which many interests should be represented, his narrow view is not popular, and even the conservative state of Pennsylvania showed that.
    By the way, where is the executive experience that qualifies Rick Santorum to be President of the U.S.? He does not compare well to Romney or even Newt Gingrich, both of whom have led highly successful businesses. (And please ask rhetorically where Barack Obama's executive experience is, because I will agree with you. That omission from his resume is glaring; that doesn't mean we need to repeat in in Rich Santorum.)

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

      you need to post your comment all over the place.

      February 9, 2012 at 4:36 pm |
    • procchi

      *whoops, that should read "please DON'T ask rhetorically...." Sorry

      February 9, 2012 at 4:36 pm |
    • bighulawood

      I'm with CoJo - you've adeptly captured the Santorum forest AND the trees.

      February 9, 2012 at 4:46 pm |
  19. McKenzie Bee

    "Santorum isn’t afraid to challenge science..."

    Yes, what do "scientists" know with their reliance on "evidence" and "reason". What America needs is more ignorance! We need a politician who can protect us from the scariest and most destructive threat of all – facts!

    February 9, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
  20. Bob

    His SuperPAC is called "Red, White, and Blue" but is internally referred to as "Red States, Whites, and No Jews".

    February 9, 2012 at 4:34 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.