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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. Michelle

    Santorum carries the votes of many Christians, but he also carries the votes of those that want to get back to the founding fathers objective for all to have Life, Liberty, and the persuit of Happiness. Most American's not lost the liberty to pursue their dreams with the current economic crisis. The libery of the churches to carry out charity work has been crippled by Obama and Santorum will fix this. I also believe that Romney and Gingrich would be a better choice than the failure we have now.

    February 14, 2012 at 7:55 am |
  2. AmericaWantsJobs

    Obama had his chance. We need a president that will create jobs, have a strong military, protect our borders and our religious freedoms. Let Obama keep the change!

    February 13, 2012 at 11:28 pm |
  3. Greg

    I'm an independent and still undecided. Santorum is defenitely a candidate that I will consider if nominated. Obama has let me down and America down the wrong path.

    February 13, 2012 at 11:13 pm |
  4. Shirley

    He is a remarkable human being with great American values. After Obama's failed economic policiies, failed foreign policies with the Middle East, China, and Russia. Obama will probably loose in November, unless the economy does a 360 fast. Santorum has much experience and "What you see is what you get" and I Like Santorum!!!

    God Bless America – In God we Trust!!!

    February 13, 2012 at 10:51 pm |
  5. chuck

    Republicans have not put a contendor up so it will for sure be four more years of Obama.Remember who it was that caught and destroyed Osama Bin Laden.Obama is not Liberal enough for me and I might vote for Nader but maybe Obama will be more Progressive in his second term ??

    February 13, 2012 at 8:36 pm |
  6. melto

    Religion was created to keep the poor from murdering the rich. Napoleon.

    February 13, 2012 at 5:07 pm |
  7. No_God

    Santorum is a nice guy, but ... he is not right for POTUS. He looks backward for guidance, looking to ancient myth and folklore. We need forward thinking, progressive, intelligent logic based on facts.

    February 13, 2012 at 6:39 am |
  8. cantilever

    I'm sure the Sanctus Sanctorum is sincerus sincerorum. How that plays out in the 21st century is debatable.

    February 12, 2012 at 8:14 pm |
  9. far

    How is it possible that evangelicals advocate greed and wars of the Republican Party? Is that not contradictory to the teachings of Jesus who believed in loving all people, helping the poor and abandon all possessions?
    Religion has become a political tool for some folks.

    February 12, 2012 at 1:26 pm |
  10. Jim Colyer

    Santorum does not want to be president. He just wants to be famous.

    February 11, 2012 at 6:09 pm |
    • Tim

      Romney is going in for the clean sweep on Super Tuesday! I can't wait.
      romneywhitehouse.blogspot.com

      February 12, 2012 at 5:51 pm |
    • Bob

      I can't wait until 'Bama thrashes him in the election, non-existent golden tablets and other crazy Mormon supersti-tions notwithstanding. Then Mitt will cr@p his magic Mormon underwear.

      February 12, 2012 at 8:19 pm |
    • No_God

      Rick knows better for all of us vie his personal buddy, his imaginary friend he calls 'god'.

      February 13, 2012 at 6:41 am |
  11. Elo

    CNN i see how desperate you want this man to beat Romney so that Obama can have another second term....I can see that..good job

    February 10, 2012 at 6:33 pm |
  12. Wojo

    How can he be taken seriously? Yes, he's anti-abortion, yet his wife had an abortion. And he lied about his Pennsylvania residence. He has this big family, but owns a 2 bedroom house in Pennsylvania. They must live like sardines there. Oh wait. It's reported that he's never even lived in that house. He's a liar and a hypocrite. Not worthy of any votes, but he's a textbook politician.

    February 10, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
  13. Barbara Stevenson

    Many of these are the exact reasons why he hasn't got a chance against Obama. Conservatives may like him but the majority of voters in America will reject someone who thinks birth control is a bad idea, who wants to limit women's rights, who doesn't believe in science and who cannot separate his personal religious beliefs from politics. I feel sorry for his kids who have to be totally indoctrinated by this homeschooling. Apparently Mr. Santorum missed the parts of the Bible where it says how difficult it is for a rich man to get into heaven, the part about 'judge not lest ye be judged', and the part about caring for the less fortunate. True biblical Christianity actually is very socialistic. Jesus diciples had to give away everything they had to follow him. Lets see today's evangelical/fundamentalists do that.

    February 10, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
    • chuck

      what a great response you made.Right on!!!!

      February 13, 2012 at 8:15 pm |
  14. anon

    4 of those are great reasons not to vote for him....

    #10: are you #$*(&ing kidding me? Challenging experts who have robust, empirically supported and tested theories based on nothing but your 2000 year old religious text and willful ignorance is a plus? No wonder the voter turnout for the GOP is plummeting.

    #8: denying a segment of the population civil rights because of your religious bigotry is not something I'd ever get behind, and a growing number of religious people agree.

    #7: studies have strongly suggested that a women's right to choose directly correlates with a drop in crime rate when those neglected babies come of age. It's not just good for women, it's good for society.

    #3: I haven't met any normal home-schooled folks. You deprive them of normal social interaction, and they're bound to be socially awkward. I'm sure there are exceptions, but in general, home schooling does more harm than good. Props for caring, misguiding though it may be.

    February 10, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
    • James

      Which is the main reason why people think Romney is the better choice. Conservatism has been pushed so far right that normal conservatives (as of 8 years ago) are now Moderates by comparison. The right has become more Fascist and Fundamentalists than any time in my life (I am mid 30s). If a "True Conservative" gets the nomination that means the independents will most likely flock to the only alternative they have – which would be Obama. There is a reason why the Independents are Independent. It is precisely because they don't drink the Fundamentalist cool-aid.

      February 13, 2012 at 1:43 pm |
  15. Magdalene

    He has my vote.

    February 10, 2012 at 12:45 pm |
    • Sue Thom

      Yes, but that's because you're incredibly backward and stupid.

      February 10, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
    • NoGod

      Santorum pretends to get guidance from an imaginary friend and thinks he knows better than any other human. He is wrong.

      February 13, 2012 at 6:43 am |
  16. Matthew Bright

    So all any cadaverous walking smirk has to do to please this part of the electorate is express their love of Jesus, then they can go on to work hand in glove with Jack Abramoff extorting money from Indian tribes and getting laws passed for whatever lobbyists give him the most money, which is how Santorum got named the second most corrupt member of Congress during his term as Senator of Pennsylvania.

    People who cast their ballots of candidates based on their "faith" are simply opening the door to the most shameless flimflam artists out there.

    February 10, 2012 at 9:43 am |
  17. Nookster

    Santorum and his so-called "faithful" followers would vote for scooby doo if scooby was against birth control, abortion and gay marrige. Other more relevant issues don't even matter to them. This group of intellecually backwards voters are becoming a smaller and smaller minority and GOP candidates that pander to them will gaurantee an Obama victory.

    February 10, 2012 at 9:18 am |
  18. gene1o

    Hey Rick – about your taxes - how much did you get to take off for the $250,000 charitable deductions to alterboys?

    February 10, 2012 at 6:29 am |
  19. migeli

    How does this guy consider himself religious.He contemptably calls Obama a socialist,gripes about government handouts to the poor.Wants to start a war immediately.Lobbied for a bridge to nowhere and other nefarious dealings.Did his wife home school or what they call "indoctrinate"the kids? Has anyone ever told this guy that Jesus,Mohammed,Moses and other religious leaders were "socialists".What a hippocrite?Obama please! 4more years.

    February 10, 2012 at 3:47 am |
  20. Dan Overmitten

    http://www.addictinginfo.org/2012/01/05/31-rick-santorum-quotes-that-prove-he-would-be-a-destructive-president/

    February 10, 2012 at 1:32 am |
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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.