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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. Irfan

    Most of the 10 points in the article will be damaging to Santorum's campaign. Rick may sue the author!

    February 9, 2012 at 5:04 pm |
  2. JM

    Wait a sec, let me get this straight...

    1. He embraces over population.
    2. He's insensitive.
    3. He'd rather indoctrinate his kids then educate them.
    4. He's a religious extremist (in my generation, this description is very extreme, and frankly, seems crazy)
    5. He's even more looney than a Mormon.
    6. He's the lesser of two evils in the eyes of women.
    7. He doesn't believe in women's rights.
    8. He's a bigot.
    9. He is out of touch with reality.

    How is this 10 things to love? Please remind me what great nation we live in?

    February 9, 2012 at 5:03 pm |
    • JM

      My head was spinning and I missed one.

      – He is compassionate and non-idealistic.

      Which is obvious from the other 9.

      February 9, 2012 at 5:06 pm |
  3. Confused

    Atheists out there hate religion, yet they account for 90% of the 'faith' and religion posters/articles?! STOP LOOKING AT RELIGIOUS ARTICLES

    February 9, 2012 at 5:02 pm |
    • Joe T.

      By that logic people who don't like democrats shouldn't be allowed to post on articles about democrats.

      February 9, 2012 at 5:05 pm |
    • go4it

      We enjoy studying theists minds. Endless wonder!

      February 9, 2012 at 5:06 pm |
    • Steve the Atheist

      Well then, let me explain "the why" to you. I have an interest in how delusional people want to force their ideals on me and my children.

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

    Please move this article out from under election center and into the opinions label. This article is awful and promotes enclave discussion and narrow-mindedness, so it belongs in the opinions section.

    February 9, 2012 at 5:02 pm |
  5. Brigitte (Atheist)

    My son came back from school today and told me that his history teacher taught them about the bible and that they had to write 2 pages essay about Jesus Christ and his 'wonderful' life and teaching, otherwise they would fail the course. W.T.F. is going on? They are also forced to do 'pledge of the flag' thing....

    February 9, 2012 at 5:00 pm |
    • Steve the Atheist

      As long as your child doesn't cite the Bible, it is NOT a reliable source for class reports. Wikipedia is 100 times better for reference purposes.

      February 9, 2012 at 5:14 pm |
  6. 5thApe

    A nut job. Good thing he wont make it.

    February 9, 2012 at 4:59 pm |
  7. Jason

    This guy terrifies those in this nation who wish to embrace a more secular culture ... one that excludes God and any "laws" that restrict what is presumed to be "freedom of expression" ... What most in the main-stream media/ and non-God fearing public just don't seem to get, is that many, many folks in America STILL believe in God; and trust in His authority ~~ and are respectfully mindful and fearful of His ultimate judgement. Social conservatives see laws being made that go against basic Christian principles (ie: gay marriage/abortion) and are quick to support someone like Santorum who speaks their language. He's not a "hater" ... He only is convicted of the truth of Jesus Christ. And that, frankly, scares the hell out of liberals!

    February 9, 2012 at 4:58 pm |
    • StuckInTX

      Wow Jason – good brainwashing you are getting from Faux News! Why is it that any time the right has a problem with an opposing view that the term "liberal" is thrown down? I'm center-right and while many "god fearing" Americans believe in what you stated, hopefully they have the intelligence to see beyond Rick's veil and vote for something meaningful – and I don't mean another clown in the GOP circus!

      February 9, 2012 at 5:04 pm |
    • Dave

      Whay does he scare you? The president can not write nor pass a single law. These MUST come from and approved by the House to the Senate and back. The president can only approve or veto the bill. Ypur worries are unfounded. If that is one of your major concerns, be sure to vote for and support your favorite candidate for Congress.

      February 9, 2012 at 5:07 pm |
    • StuckInTX

      – "Social conservatives see laws being made that go against basic Christian principles (ie: gay marriage/abortion) and are quick to support someone like Santorum who speaks their language. He's not a "hater" ... He only is convicted of the truth of Jesus Christ."
      --------- – – – – - – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
      I don't care if you are gay, or from Mars for that matter. Don't expect me to treat you differently because you are either of those. The reason those laws are being made is for the same reason other laws are being made – Congress is being lobbied by special interest groups, and some of them have a lot of influence. That has nothing to do with being liberal. Personally, I think marriage should remain male/female, but I still wouldn't vote for Rick S.

      February 9, 2012 at 5:08 pm |
    • Dave

      Why does he scare you? The president can not write nor pass a single law. These MUST come from and approved by the House to the Senate and back. The president can only approve or veto the bill. Ypur worries are unfounded. If that is one of your major concerns, be sure to vote for and support your favorite candidate for Congress.

      February 9, 2012 at 5:10 pm |
    • Herpy McDerp

      Interesting, but you seem to forget the fact that your god and Jesus are fictional characters.

      February 9, 2012 at 5:10 pm |
    • wga3g54a35a3

      He should scare you because his opinions and beliefs are a strong indication that he's irrational. How else can you explain believing in things for which there is no evidence? If his opinions are going to guide our government they should at least be based on verifiable evidence so the rest of us can evaluate his reasoning. He's also able to make government appointments.

      February 9, 2012 at 5:13 pm |
  8. Joe

    "Santorum isn’t afraid to challenge science" << he isnt afraid to look like an idiot.

    "Santorum’s a homeschooling dad" << he isnt afraid that his spawn are idiots

    February 9, 2012 at 4:57 pm |
    • bunniebzr

      What a stupid thing to say. You are so hard up that you have to call children names even though you don't know them? That's what I call small minded.

      February 9, 2012 at 4:59 pm |
    • Jason

      Hmmm ... resort to name-calling much Joe? I was taught that people resort to such language only when they are backed into a corner ...

      February 9, 2012 at 5:00 pm |
    • Herpy McDerp

      Is it name-calling when you say that an idiot is an idiot?

      February 9, 2012 at 5:14 pm |
  9. JM

    Actually, this is 10 reasons why we shouldn't vote for him. I don't see anything in here about actual qualifications. I see 10 reasons why close minded people might vote for him only.

    As far as CNN goes, well, the only sense I can make of it is that they want Rick to win the nomination so that we are guaranteed that Obama will win re-election. This guy sounds like a nut job.

    February 9, 2012 at 4:55 pm |
  10. Joe

    No. 11, if he is the nominee, then Obama is president 2012. Go Santorum.

    February 9, 2012 at 4:54 pm |
  11. CoJo

    America use to mean "Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations", but with conservatives I guess that is not true

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

      correction, that ought to be "Infinite Diversity in Infinite Possibilities"

      February 9, 2012 at 4:56 pm |
  12. .

    I wish I met an atheists out there.... I would spit on their face and make them cry!!

    February 9, 2012 at 4:54 pm |
    • wga3g54a35a3

      That would be considered a crime. Enjoy going to jail. And if you do it to the wrong person, enjoy getting your teeth kicked in.

      February 9, 2012 at 5:00 pm |
    • anonymous

      How very Godly of you.

      February 9, 2012 at 5:01 pm |
  13. teepee

    he doesn't like Blah people

    February 9, 2012 at 4:52 pm |
  14. Kay

    In short , he is a idiot. What these social conservatives don't think about is that the US is teetering on the brink of economic disaster. We need someone like Mitt Romney who has strong business experience. Somehow, when people start rioting in the streets like in Greece, I don't think these idiot social conservatives are going to be so concerned about abortion or evolution.

    February 9, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
  15. Mattias

    Einstein believed in God. I don't think any atheists out there are smarter than him..... Go try run for president.... GOOD LUCK!

    February 9, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
    • go4it

      That is an un-true urban legend. He did not.

      February 9, 2012 at 4:54 pm |
    • Joe T.

      Einstein was not a theist and I doubt any Christians are smarter than him!

      February 9, 2012 at 4:56 pm |
    • go4it

      Quote from Albert Einstein:
      "It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly."3

      3.Helen Dukas and Banesh Hoffman (eds) (1981). Albert Einstein, The Human Side. Princeton University Press. p. 43.

      February 9, 2012 at 4:56 pm |
    • Steve the Atheist

      @go4it - You forget people like Mattias have no problem preaching about things that aren't true. So why would he use the facts on the topic of Einstein then?

      February 9, 2012 at 5:18 pm |
  16. Irfan

    Those are exactly the reasons that would be seen by many for not to vote for Santorum. Thanks for alerting a lot of people to a possible threat to freedom.

    February 9, 2012 at 4:50 pm |
  17. darren hankins

    I other words he is a wacko right wing nut job

    February 9, 2012 at 4:50 pm |
  18. bunniebzr

    Just looking at these comments I can see why our nation is quickly losing the respect of the rest of the world. The average American watches reality shows and spends most of their time looking for entertainment and ways to gratify themselves by buying all of the latest gadgets. The Americans of the 1940's and 1950's were much stronger people and they had moral values. Because of it, America was a better place to live. We have almost completely lost God in America. When God turns His back on us, then you will get what you have asked for and I have a feeling you won't like it. As you sow, so shall you reap.

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

      If you want to live in a theocracy so bad move to Iran. Santorum has openly stated he wants a Christian version of Sharia law in the US. You're all just the American Taliban.

      February 9, 2012 at 4:55 pm |
    • Josh

      What if we want Christian thecracy and not Islamic?

      February 9, 2012 at 4:57 pm |
    • Peter Potter

      What happens when we find out that there is no "true" God and that it was created so that a few could rule the many. Religion does not belong in government. And who is to say that if there is a God that we are not making him happy by following the Catholic way, what if Islam is the right way? In the mean time people should have the right to choose whatever they want to do either it be gay marriage, contraceptives or abortion. Government does not have the right to dictate what we do in our private lives.

      February 9, 2012 at 4:58 pm |
    • jojo

      Josh, there will be no difference between an Islamic theocracy and a Christian one. All religions do the same thing when they're in power, believe as we do or suffer the consequences. That's why the seperation is CHURCH and state, not just ISLAM and state.

      February 9, 2012 at 5:04 pm |
    • Jason

      Mr. Potter - Government does dictate what you do in your private life ... it dictates how fast your drive your car, how much money you pay in taxes, whether or not you can murder your children (born and unborn) - All law is based on some moral ethic/code ... In this country, like it or not, laws have been founded on basic judeo-Christian principles. People have always basically had a right to do in their private lives what they wish, without having government step in and dictate. The problem happens when the government (or judges) try to push onto the general population laws that most people find immoral (ie. Gay marriage) - No one is saying these folks can't do what they like with whomever they like in private ... we just don't think it should be "mandated" and recognized by "law" as being a legal marriage.

      February 9, 2012 at 5:08 pm |
  19. Ted

    Wish Santorum all the best as he pulls the GOP so far to the right that they get blown off in the map in the general. Be my guest, GOP, cut your nose off to spite your face.

    February 9, 2012 at 4:49 pm |
  20. Christine

    We need to move more towards theocracy... the only way religion survives in a country. Look at those strict Islamic nation.... we need to enforce religion on everyone otherwise they should move. I am serious!

    February 9, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
    • wga3g54a35a3

      You should be euthanized.

      February 9, 2012 at 5:04 pm |
    • anonymous

      OK, if you're serious, I vote for Hinduism. No more Judeo-Christian traditions here.
      Oh, and if you're serious, you seriously need professional help.

      February 9, 2012 at 5:09 pm |
    • Em

      Spoken like a true terrorist!

      February 9, 2012 at 5:14 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.