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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. Kourtney Williams

    Mr. Santorum has my vote. However, I find fault with this article particularly point number 10. As a science educator, I feel that science and Christianity do not oppose each other. In fact the Bible mentioned that the earth was round prior to Christopher Columbus' discovery (Isaiah 40:22). There are numerous other examples like this all over the Bible.

    February 8, 2012 at 11:30 pm |
    • tokencode

      The bible also says
      "Wives should be subordinate to their husbands as to the Lord." (Ephesians 5:22)
      Slaves, be subject to your masters with all reverence, not only to those who are good and equitable but also to those who are perverse." (1 Peter 2:18)
      "I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man. She must be quiet." (1 Timothy 2:12)
      "Go, now, attack Amalek, and deal with him and all that he has under the ban. Do not spare him, but kill men and women, children and infants, oxen and sheep, camels and asses." (1 Samuel 15:3)

      February 8, 2012 at 11:32 pm |
    • *facepalm*

      The bible says that the earth is a circle. If you're a science educator you should be able to recognize the difference between a circle (flat) and a sphere (decidedly not flat)

      February 8, 2012 at 11:35 pm |
    • NJBob

      Religion and science are totally incompatible because religion does not lend itself to scientific inquiry. Where it has been attempted (and the effort has been an honest one), all evidence indicates that religion is false. I'll take science any day.

      February 8, 2012 at 11:40 pm |
    • Oh My

      Kourtney Williams,

      Oh, I hope that you are not teaching your students that Christopher Columbus discovered that the Earth is round?

      Please at least read here:
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spherical_Earth

      February 8, 2012 at 11:41 pm |
  2. Trish

    You people that are bashing Rick Santorum..need to grow up.... acting just like most of the lying politicians,,, We DO need a change in America... OBama.... Romney... I do not think we can survive with one of them as president...Ron Paul no chance..... So.... Its Newt or Rick... I well remember when Newt was speaker of the house..... Not good... so.... that leaves Santorum.... and I do like his family values.... Just because kids are home schooled does not mean they are deprived.. Many of them meet other home school kids...

    February 8, 2012 at 11:29 pm |
    • pat carr

      We need a change in America and it ain't gonna be Santorum

      February 8, 2012 at 11:31 pm |
    • *facepalm*

      We need a change, so let's elect a corrupt senator who's own consti tuents tossed him out of office. He couldn't even get re-elected in his own state because the residents there could easily see what a nut he is.

      February 8, 2012 at 11:32 pm |
    • tokencode

      If I wanted to live in a theocracy I would move to Iran. Santorum would alow the religous nutcases to set this country back 50 years

      February 8, 2012 at 11:33 pm |
    • 0G-No gods, ghosts or goblins

      It's only a matter of time before Santorum's mistress goes public...

      February 8, 2012 at 11:35 pm |
    • NJBob

      By home schooling his kids, Santorum is turning them into a new generation of crackpots.

      February 8, 2012 at 11:36 pm |
    • BADGUY

      We DO need a change in America...BUT...in doesn't include anything the Republicans are proposing. American Capitalism is DOA. It's time the federal government steps in with a jobs program to drive the unemployment rate to zero. "Free Enterprise" is nowhere to be seen (other than in China)

      February 8, 2012 at 11:38 pm |
  3. Reality

    Only for the newbies:---------->

    Why the Christian Right no longer matters in presidential elections:

    Once again, all the conservative votes in the country "ain't" going to help a "pro-life" presidential candidate, i.e Mitt Romney, Newton Leroy Gingrich, Ron Paul or Rick Santorum, in 2012 as the "Immoral Majority" rules the country and will be doing so for awhile. The "Immoral Majority" you ask?

    The fastest growing USA voting bloc: In 2008, the 70+ million "Roe vs. Wade mothers and fathers" of aborted womb-babies" whose ranks grow by two million per year i.e. 78+ million "IM" voters in 2012.

    2008 Presidential popular vote results:

    69,456,897 for pro-abortion/choice BO, 59,934,814 for "pro-life" JM.

    And all because many women fail to take the Pill once a day or men fail to use a condom even though in most cases these men have them in their pockets. (maybe they should be called the "Stupid Majority"?)

    And the irony:

    The failures of the widely used birth "control" methods i.e. the Pill and male condom have led to the large rate of abortions ( one million/yr) and S-TDs (19 million/yr) in the USA. Men and women must either recognize their responsibilities by using the Pill or condoms properly and/or use other safer birth control methods in order to reduce the epidemics of abortion and S-TDs.

    February 8, 2012 at 11:29 pm |
  4. NJBob

    If Santorum is elected, every uterus will become the property of the US government, which will determine how and when it can be used.

    February 8, 2012 at 11:29 pm |
  5. NJBob

    He's a true Neanderthal who wants to take this country back to the 18th century (or earlier). I wish he'd learn to keep his religion – a form of mental illness – to himself.

    February 8, 2012 at 11:25 pm |
  6. Bolts

    Romans had condoms... weird that Jesus didn't mention being against it...

    February 8, 2012 at 11:24 pm |
  7. NoMr

    Mr. Santorum, I am a Christian and Sir, you do not speak for me...

    February 8, 2012 at 11:11 pm |
  8. wesstward

    This is one censored article.

    February 8, 2012 at 11:07 pm |
  9. Euorgos

    I am hoping this frothy mixture of conservatism and idiocy becomes the Republican candidate. Since he has virtually no chance of winning any election, it would make it easy for Obama to get his well deserved second term.

    February 8, 2012 at 10:50 pm |
  10. Adam

    If Rick wants to fight AIDS then he should advocate condom use , especially in the third world... oh yeah, thats against his religion , so much for actually helping rather than hurting a terrible situation.

    February 8, 2012 at 10:50 pm |
  11. allenwoll

    Endorsement by the faithful should be considered as the Kiss of Death for ANY politician. ! ! !

    Is his middle initial "T" for Taliban-like ? ? ? , "J" for Jihadist-like ? ? ? , or just "I" for Islamist-like ? ?

    February 8, 2012 at 10:29 pm |
  12. CarolSong

    Well Rick, you gonna tell me if I have to have a baby, you're going tell me it's bad to be gay, you're going to tell me to believe in the BIble. So, aaaaaaaaaaaah, what else ya got?

    February 8, 2012 at 10:25 pm |
  13. Rocketier

    Why is it the bigotry and faith go hand-in-hand these days? But it's important to add that the "faith" I'm talking about is doctrinaire religious faith, which is really just blind trust in the belief that if you believe it it must be true. I know this sounds goofy, but actually it's quite sad, and I sincerely hope that our country doesn't continue to move in this direction. I happen to believe that evolution is an amazing and very real phenomenon. I happen to think that it's likely that human behavior is impacting the weather and our environment, and that it's too big a risk to take if we truly care about future generations. I happen to believe that people who deny evolution, environmental degradation, and climate change are living in a religious fantasy world and that if they succeed in imposing their beliefs on our society we're sunk and my grandkids won't have the opportunity for a fulfilling life that I have had. Santorum might be a nice, decent man but he is a danger to us all.

    February 8, 2012 at 10:24 pm |
    • CarolSong

      Relax Rock, I was raised in the evangelical church. They shoot themselves in the foot on a weekly basis. An intelligent child figures out what a crock this stuff is. Not to worry, it isn't sustainable.

      February 8, 2012 at 10:30 pm |
  14. packerfans

    Vote for Mitt Romney, He can save America for jobs and ecomony and gas lower and social security costy living and more. but Ricky does not have skills those it and how he can beat Obama? We dont want other wrong alike Obama failed America repeated!! Do not let Obama win in second terms. He does not deserve second term. Remember Gulf Mexico leaking oil gas for three month President Obama does not pay attention as sooner!! and stole money from retirement from three years no living costl increase and more.. Do not vote for Obama. Vote for Mitt Romney has lot skills. Good Rick got winning those three states. for purpose against Obama!! Let say Romney and Rick as vp!! or Paul!! Team works against Obama!!

    February 8, 2012 at 10:21 pm |
    • A known Filipino

      Must be a member of the tea party. His spelling level is at a second grade level and he/she is probably a red neck. Well I just we will see Obama in office until 2017.

      February 8, 2012 at 11:08 pm |
    • A known Filipino

      Plus I'm an independent. Was hoping Ron Paul would win, but since Santorums going to because of Catholics I guess I'm voting for Obama. Lesser of the two evils.

      February 8, 2012 at 11:10 pm |
    • cmoore56

      I'm sorry. Were you trying to say something here? Because I sure didn't understand anything that you wrote.

      February 8, 2012 at 11:34 pm |
    • NJBob

      Tell us again, which planet do you come from?

      February 8, 2012 at 11:43 pm |
  15. Someone

    So his kids are home schooled – he has enough money to have a stay at home mom. How smart are they? Can they really do algebra, science, composition? Does Santorum's wife ACTUALLY teach, or does she pop for tutors? How are the kids socially, or will they melt down if they go in the world and actually have to deal with people who are different than they, which actually happens in public and private school.

    February 8, 2012 at 10:20 pm |
  16. loathstheright

    "If English was good enough for Jesus, then it's good enough for the children of Pennsylvania." ~ Rick Santorum R-PA

    February 8, 2012 at 10:16 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      That would be a very damning quote if true, and I'd like to use it. Do you have a reference for it? I couldn't find anything on the web.

      February 8, 2012 at 10:58 pm |
  17. DC from NJ

    Santorum can question evolution if he so desires, but that just proves that he's ignorant and is not qualified to be President. Having said that, I hope that the Republicans are crazy enough to nominate him because that will guarantee Obama's reelection.

    February 8, 2012 at 10:14 pm |
  18. no santorum

    I wonder i Rick Santorum ever heard of Thou Shalt not Steal

    Cos he robbed the Pennsylvania state taxpayers

    As Jesus once said "Beware of False Prophets" Santorum is a Snake

    February 8, 2012 at 10:13 pm |
    • Ronald Reganzo

      and rightly so

      February 8, 2012 at 10:20 pm |
  19. The Big Fat One

    This is one Frothy Mixture I can do without.

    February 8, 2012 at 10:11 pm |
  20. chedar

    You all realized that if Santorum wins the presidency in 2012, you have no other alternative with your spouse except the missionary position. Other than the missionary position, you will be prosecuted with the fullest extend of the law

    February 8, 2012 at 10:06 pm |
    • Ronald Reganzo

      And rightly so.

      February 8, 2012 at 10:08 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.